Thursday, July 31, 2008

Miis vs. Avatars

Microsoft's Avatars

If you follow the internet, you may know a thing or two about Microsoft's Avatars. Basically they're Microsoft's answer to Nintendo Miis. So will they dethrone Nintendo's little characters? Microsoft may think so, but I as a gamer see many flaws in their plans. Read on to see my analysis as to why I think so. Enjoy!

First off, Nintendo's Miis have been there since the beginning. The moment you bought a Wii, you could turn it on, adjust some of the settings and set to making Miis of yourself and family. And since the Wii's launch dozens of games have used Miis to some extent. Everything from Wii Play and Wii Sports, which allowed you to actually play as your Mii, to Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which had you use a Mii for your save slot. Genius? I dare say so. But then Avatars are a different story... The XBox 360 has been around for almost three years, and Avatars have just been announced. So that means all those games that could've used them won't or will need some sort of patch, which can be a hassle for gamers and developers. Plus the Wii had Wii Sports packaged in. The game was great fun for a little while and the Mii integration was nice. It was great if you didn't have any other titles at the time. But the 360 doesn't have a packaged game like the Wii, so no using your Avatars right off the bat, which will suck for people who don't buy a lot of games.

Nintendo's Miis

Currently, there are only three games in development that are going to use Microsoft's Avatars: UNO Rush, 1 vs. 100, and Scene It? Box Office Smash, all casual catered games. Which brings up my next point. As you may be aware of, the Wii is a more family friendly console. Sure they're hardcore games too, but if you're thinking about buying a sytem for your mom or grandma, you usually don't think of the 360. But with Avatars, Microsoft is trying to cater to the casual folk. And I don't really think that's a good idea. Most of the buyers and player of Microsoft's XBox 360 are more core players. Most 360 owners buy the system for games like GTA, Gears of War, and Halo 3, not Avatars. While on the Wii, Miis are used in a variety of casual things, because casuals play the Wii. Stuff like Everybody Votes Channel and Check Mii Out Channel thrive on the Wii because of the expanded userbase. This isn't so much the story on the 360.

So overall, the Miis are better in my opinion. The main two reasons being that they've been on the system since launch and the Wii is more casual friendly.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Video Game Mascots, Old vs. New

Many video game characters, such as Mario have been around since the 8-bit days. Some, like Sonic, are a bit more recent and appeared in the 16-bit era of the SNES and Genesis. But nonetheless, a lot of video game mascots have had quite a bit of history. The character themselves probably have changed in their overall look too. Tonight I'll be discussing various video game characters (think Mario, Pac-Man, etc.) and which look I prefer, retro or present.


What better place to start than the face of the video game industry: Mario. As you can see with the above photo, Mario is a clear indication of how much graphical change has happened since the early days of video games. Mario now sports snazzy bright blue overalls in place of his 8-bit red pair. On his hands are shiny, white gloves (strange that they're not dirty, seeing all the goombas he's squashed and bricks he's broken). His eyes are also now a baby blue. In short, the new Mario is cooler. But the 8-bit Mario will still have a place in my heart.

Winner: New


Pac-Man is another very iconic video game character. The original games are extremely fun (especially Ms. Pac-Man). The only "cool" feature worth mentioning on the new Pac-Man are his eyes. Which are actually tiny, darkened Pac-Mans (or -Men?). Clever, and about the only thing clever about the new version. From the bright red boots to his orange, boxing gloves, this isn't Pac-Man.

Winner: Old


As you can see from the image above, Sonic hasn't changed too much (while the old is just art, it still depicts what Sonic looked like in those days). The changes are subtle, but for the best. On his shoes are now buckles. His eyes now have color, emerald green. And his overall look is older and more badass. The older version looks like some Saturday morning cartoon. So thus, this match goes to the new.

Winner: New

And that rounds off my article. I know it's a little short but I'm getting real tired and about to fall asleep on my keyboard. I'll probably do a second one of these. Maybe with more mascots. Like Link, Samus, Mega Man, Bomberman, Crash, etc. Sorry guys, I'm dead tired and falling asleep as we speak. Later.... nt bbvg vb jkl;;;lk;nnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Good and Bad of E3 2008 - Nintendo and Microsoft

My last E3 article... Nintendo and Microsoft only because those were the Media Briefings I watched, maybe I'll watch Sony's sometime and post something, but it's unlikely.

The Good
  • Animal Crossing: City Fold announcement and footage/creator interview (looks very cool).
  • WiiSpeak peripheral announcement (aka the Wii's voice chat).
  • Guitar Hero: On Tour sequel will feature "trading songs" feature (allowing Guitar Hero: On Tour and Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades to trade songs).
  • Wii Sports Resort announcement (looks really entertaining).
  • Wii MotionPlus demoed (allowing 1:1 motions of the Wii).
The Bad
  • Cammy Dunaway (god she's annoying).
  • Shawn White demoing Shawn White Snowboarding (looks mediocre, and the Flying Tomato's pretty annoying too).
  • Wii Music (um...).
The Unexpected
  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars announcement (for the DS).
  • No news of "core" games. Pikmin? Mario? Zelda? Punch-Out!!? Nintendo franchises (Other than Animal Crossing)? o_O
The Good
  • Fallout 3 demoed (looks very cool).
  • Resident Evil 5 demoed and co-op announced (co-op looks very sweet).
  • Fable 2 demoed (looks interesting, especially the co-op).
  • Gears of War 2 demoed (looks very, very bad ass).
  • Geometry Wars 2, Galaga Legions, and Portal Still Alive annouced for XBLA.
  • Netflix for Live users!
The Bad
  • Microsoft Miis, er, I mean Avatars.
  • The new Dashboard (looks quite a bit like Apple's Cover Flow).
  • "Casual" games: You're In the Movies, Lips, and Uno Rush.
The Unexpected
  • Final Fantasy XIII for the 360 announcement (no longer a PS3 exclusive).
  • No showing of Microsoft's rumored motion controls or remote (thank god!).

The Good, the Bad, and the Unexpected
  • May be coming soon (don't count on it)...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Guitar Hero: On Tour (DS) review

Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: RedOctane, Activision
Date Released: June 22, 2008 (USA)
MSRP: $49.99
Players: 1-2
Genre: Music
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)

Guitar Hero on the DS... Not the system you'd really imagine the popular series to jump to, but guess what? It happened, and it works!

While there's been a lot of changes to the game to make it work on the DS, it still feels like a Guitar Hero at heart. Which is the most important thing.

The most noticeable change is the lack of a guitar peripheral. Instead you get a Guitar Grip, a neat little device that plugs into the GBA slot of your DS (as pictured below...). You'll notice that instead of the five button layout of the console versions, Guitar Hero: On Tour eliminates the fifth, orange button. A good choice in my opinion, as the game would feel clunkier if you had to slide your hand up and down. And if you're worrying about the difficulty due to the lack of a button, don't; the game really challenges you in the Hard and Expert difficulties (especially those last couple of tiers).

As for the peripheral, it works pretty well. The buttons all feel nice, which is good. I do have some gripes with it though. But it does feel a little loose in the GBA slot. Everytime I'd slide my hand in, it get disconnected. So here's tip: put your hand in the Grip before you turn your DS on. It'll save you a lot of connectivity problems. Another thing I should mention is after long periods of play, you'll most definitely get hand cramps. I don't really see how they could've prevented this with the Guitar Grip, but just remember to take breaks and stretch out your hand every once in a while. Overall the Grip feels pretty good and works pretty well. If only they'd made it a little more secure in the GBA slot.

Now you may be wondering how it all plays. You hold the DS like a book (à la Brain Age, Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword, etc.) On the left screen are the scrolling gems above your selected character playing at selected stage. On the right (touch) screen shows your score, how much Star Power you have, how well the crowd likes you, and the strings of the guitar. Instead of a plastic strum bar like the console versions, the game comes with a stylus pick. So when you're pressing the corresponding color button, you strum across the touch screen with your pick to play the note. It works surprisingly well. Plus you can strum anywhere on the screen in any direction to play a note. The Whammy Bar is used by moving the pick back and forth across the screen without picking it up.

In the console version of Guitar Hero, you activate Star Power by tipping the guitar controller vertically and your multiplier would double. This is another area where Vicarious Visions has succeed in bring Guitar Hero to the DS. To activate it all you need to do is blow or shout some word into the DS's built in microphone (I found "Wha-hoo!" to work well). If you're playing in a loud room or in a vehicle, you may find that it activates itself on its own. This annoyed me a bit, but I couldn't see what they could've done to decrease it, as if you play in a quiet atmosphere, you may find yourself rather loud. But if you want to keep quiet, you can also activate it by pressing one of the DS's face buttons, which is nice.

The song selection is an interesting one. It focuses more on mainstream and recent rock, as is evident in songs like blink-182's "All the Small Things" and "What I Want" from Daughtry (which interestingly features Slash). While some classic rock songs appear, most of them have been seen on previous Guitar Hero (such as "Hit Me with Your Best Shot", "Black Magic Woman", and "Rock and Roll All Nite"). While I enjoyed the songs, I didn't so as much as previous games. But hey that's me. The song list will appeal to different people, and some people may not even buy the game because of the list. All in all, there's 26 songs in the game (only one of those is unlockable). It may seem small compared to other Guitar Hero's, but it's on the DS, so it's pretty incredible that they could fit that many on the little DS cartridge.

Guitar Hero: On Tour also improved some areas of gameplay that definitely need to be brought over into the next versions (console and handheld). The first of these is the pause game scenario. In Guitar Hero III if you'd pause the game and then resume, more often than not you'd miss the next couple notes, as it starts off right where you paused. In On Tour, it rewinds the song a bit but doesn't have any notes for the first five seconds so you can catch back up with the song. An excellent gameplay aspect in my opinion, and something they definitely need to used in the console versions.

The second area in which I feel they improve on 100% is the boss battles. I hated the Boss Battle and Battle modes of Guitar Hero III. They were horrible in my opinion. Well Guitar Hero: On Tour returns to them but improves on every gripe I had with GH3's. First off, in Legends of Rock, to win a battle you had to make crowd boo them off the stage, which was pretty hard to do especially in multiplayer (in which things often ended in a tie). In On Tour, all you need to do to win is get a higher score than your opponent. The other problem I had with GH3's battle mode were the unimaginative powerups. With the DS's touch screen and microphone Vicarious Vision's can do so much more. On of my favorites was one that made you sign a fan's t-shirt, purse, or fish to get back playing. Other creative items include blowing out a fire through the microphone and reconnecting guitar strings via the touch screen. Another great choice was making the battles separate. Instead of having to beat a battle to get to the next bunch of songs, it's in a whole other mode titled Guitar Duels.

There's multiplayer too, which includes both co-op and competitive play. In cooperative, one person plays lead, the other back-up. But it seems like competitive is where it's at: as you play the full Guitar Duels with friends!

The grachics are actually pretty nice for the DS. They still have that GH feel, but a bit smaller. If you go into detail, you'll notice that the singer and bass guitarist have been combined into one person. But overall they're above average for Nintendo's little handheld.

Overall Thoughts

Vicarious Visions succeeded in bringing over the popular franchise to the DS. You'll definitely be entertained with this version. While the song selection includes some pretty cool tracks, it won't appeal to everyone.

Gameplay: 9/10 Not so much like playing a real guitar, but quite a bit like playing Guitar Hero. And it's a great deal of fun.

Multiplayer: 8/10 Guitar Duels are great in single-player and even better with a friend.

Graphics: 9/10 Some very nice visuals for the DS. The two screen layout works well too.

Sound: 8/10 Some pretty nice tunes. About half of them are master tracks.

Lasting Value: 7.5/10 The 25 tunes (plus one unlockable) will keep you occupied for only so long. The Guitar Duels are a nice addition too.


Comments or questions? Drop an email to or leave a comment below...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Upcoming Wii Games - Part 2 Post-E3

It's over... *sigh*

As you may remember I did a little article before E3 about what games for the Nitendo Wii I was looking forward too. Well, E3's come and gone, I've read every posible preview and hands-on of the games that were showcased there, and now I've come up with a few more games that I really can't wait for. Enjoy!

The Conduit

Platform(s): Wii
Release Date: Q1 2009 (USA)
I totally forgot about this game on my first article. But I hadn't really seen any articles or interviews at that time for me to remember. But with the flood of E3 previews, I have to say I'm even more excited. While the FPS is the genre that covers a lot of the games on both the PS3 and XBox 360, it's been rarely touched on the Wii. Strange, seeing that the controls work very well if done right (e.g. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Medal of Honor: Heroes 2.) And the graphics are some of the best seen on Wii occording to video game journalists from sites such as IGN and GoNintendo. After the IGN exclusive reveal of the game in April 17, 2008, I've been looking forward to this game quite a bit and I really can't wait. But I guess I don't care about that wait actually, even more time for them the make the game awesome.

Animal Crossing: City Folk

System(s): Wii
Release Date: November 16, 2008
What's so good about the newest iteration of Animal Crossing? It's supposedly the same old Animal Crossing we've come to love with some new features, voice chat via Nintendo's strange WiiSpeak, keyboard support, and Wii remote IR functionality for all menus, environments and everything in between. Sounds great, right? I sure hope so, because I'm ready to enter the AC universe again.

Wii Sports Resort

System(s): Wii
Release Date: Spring 2009
The sequel to Wii Sports, the game packaged with the Wii to show off the motion controls, is shaping up the be along those same lines. But instead of motion sensing that it's showing off, it's enhanced motion sensing via the Wii MotionPlus, a little peripheral that plugs into the bottom of the Wii remote and lets you do 1:1 motion controls. It's supposed to have around ten different games packaged in. The ones we've seen are Frisbee, Jet Skiing (above), and Fencing. All of which look very cool. With Wii Sports, I had a great deal of fun even if it was limited. And since it comes with the MotionPlus, this looks like a must buy for me.

Last time I had a couple of games I wasn't so sure of, or that I hadn't seen enough of to make a full decision. Two of these were hardcore-geared titles Fatal Frame 4 (aka Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse) from Nintendo and Capcom's Moster Hunter 3, which disappointedly we saw nothing of at E3 2008. Another game I'm not so sure about but will keep my eyes open for is MadWorld, which we've seen some videos of at E3 and looks gruesome and kinda cool.

That rounds up my second article about the games I'm looking forward too. In case you missed the first, it's here. And here's a complete list (so far) of the games I can't wait for:

de Blob
September 26, 2008 (USA)
Wario Land: Shake It! September 29, 2008 (USA)
Guitar Hero: World Tour October 27, 2008 (USA)
Animal Crossing: City Folk November 16, 2008 (USA)
Mega Man 9 Fall/Winter 2008 (USA)
The Conduit Q1 2009 (USA)
Wii Sports Resort Spring 2009 (USA)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Games At Nintendo's E3 Press Conference

There could be quite a few different words to describe what many gamers, such as myself felt when they watched/read about Nintendo's Press Conference at E3 yesterday. Disappointment. Surprise. WTF? I pretty much felt all of those and more. It sort of felt like Nintendo forgot a lot of games and franchises. Where's the much rumored Kid Icarus? What about returning to classic Nintendo franchises like Pikmin, F-Zero, and Punch Out? Well, even if we didn't see those games, I still have quite a few impressions of the games that were announced... Enjoy!

Animal Crossing: City Folk

The three first-party Nintendo games shown at the Conference were Animal Crossing: City Folk, Wii Music, and Wii Sports Resort. So I'll start talking about Animal Crossing first. It was confirmed a day or so before E3, so that surprise was kind of ruined for me. But it was still cool to see it in action. The game looks quite a bit similar to the two previous games on the GameCube and DS. It also has that strange curved horizon like in the DS one. I can't really argue whether I prefer the GC view better, as I've never played that version. From some recent previews I've read, the game also looks a bit more about exploring the town and city, which is very cool in my opinion. It was announced at E3 alongside the WiiSpeak, an interesting peripheral that is Nintendo's answer to voice chat. It seems a little strange but it's a start. USB Keyboard support is being utilized too, which is another nice addition. Animal Crossing: City Folk looks like that classic AC we've come to love, but also brings some new, nicely integrated additions too.

Wii Sports Resorts

Wii MotionPlus

Wii Sports 2, or Wii Sports Resort is the sequel to the game packaged with the Wii. The original was there to show off the motion control abilities of the Wii remote. Similar to it's predecessor, Wii Sports Resort is being packaged with the MotionPlus device. This peripheral makes 1:1 motion controls on the Wii possible. And with the demonstration at E3, it's shaping up to be great. The game will include around 10 different games, along the same lines as Wii Sports. Three were shown at the Press Conference: Frisbee, jet skiing, and sword fighting. They all look surprisingly fun, and they seemed to work very well. The sword dueling one in particular showed off how the new MotionPlus can truly mimic your motions. The game is actually one of the coolest being shown for the Wii currently.

Wii Music

I'm actually pretty disappointed with Wii Music as of late. The things that have me excited about it are the variety in instruments you can play (over 50, if Nintendo is to be believed) and the classic Nintendo tracks you play in the game (such as F-Zero, Zelda, and Super Mario Bros.). But from E3's presentation, it looks very simplistic and dumbed down. No scrolling notes, just two buttons on most of the instruments that control the sounds. On the contrary, the drum set looks interesting, as the foot pedals are controlled by the Wii Balance Board and the Wii remote and Nunchuk control where you hit the drums. Overall, the games needs to have a bit more challenge than what was seen for me to be excited. But it's still a while away, and who knows what will happen?

Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades

Sounds cool. But it seems kind of soon to announce a sequel, but Activision is known for pulling out multiple sequels, not necessarily a good nor bad thing. A cool feature of it include the ability to share songs with someone who has the original version and vice-versa. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes and ears open for this.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto's coming to the DS! And it's set in Liberty City! End of story. What? Any other details or maybe even a teaser trailer? Nope. Hmm... Interesting. I wound have guessed Rockstar to bring the GTA series to the Wii or PSP way before the DS, but whatever. As I said before, this'll be interesting. Too bad we don't even have a single screen or anything, just some stupid logo.

So those were the games that were announced at Nintendo's Press Conference. Really, the highlights of the show were Nintendo's announcements: Animal Crossing, Wii Sports 2, Wii Music, Wii MotionPlus, and WiiSpeak. While it disappointed many a fan, I for one was somewhat impressed. I was a little underwhelmed at the lack of Kid Icarus, Zelda, Mario, Pikmin, or Punch-Out!!, but it wasn't all that bad of an E3 Press Conference.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My E3 Predictions: The Aftermath

Wii Sports Resort, which I didn't predict, and is looking pretty cool...

As you may recall, way back in May, I wrote a little article concerning what I had predicted we'd see at Nintendo's press conference. Well now that the Nintendo E3 Media Briefing is over, how many of my predicted games showed up? Read on to find out...

The first game I predicted way back when was Kid Icarus. There were so many signs, such as him being in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and not to mention the IGN crew had pretty much confirmed it in their podcasts. But alas no mention of Kid Icarus at the press conference. I was 99% sure of it being there, but I guess there's always that 1%. But it seems like it's still in development, as IGN stated in an interview with Miyamoto.

As for Animal Crossing Wii, that's another story. I was pretty sure this was going to be shown at E3 also, and it was. It's now titled Animal Crossing: City Folk. It looks pretty cool, but it also looks very similar to the previous AC's for the DS and GameCube.

Pikmin 3? Nope it wasn't there either.

Disastor: Day of Crisis wasn't there in any shape or form. This has led me to believe it's gone the path of Project HAMMER and we won't be hearing of it anymore.

Wii Music was there and it looked interesting. You'll be able to play classic Nintendo tunes on over 50 instuments which looked cool. But it also looks overly simplistic. I'll just have to wait and see.

For some strange reason there was no storage solution announced for the Wii at E3. No SD Card support. No USB hard-drive support. Nothing. Strange and starting to piss me off just a little.

Voice chat was announced at the Expo. But it's very strange looking. Instead of a headset, you have a little device that sits above you TV and takes in the sounds of you living room and projects them to people you're playing games with. It's very strange and I can't see why not just a headset. Also, if you're wondering, you'll only be able to chat with people on your friends list (surprise, surprise!).

As for the DS, little was announced other than a very unexpected Grand Theft Auto game. Nothing like the New Super Mario Bros. 2 I had predicted.

Well there you have it. It seems I'm not the best at seeing the future. I was right on 3 things and wrong on 5. But hey, who knows, maybe Nintendo will announce some big title at the end of E3 (like in 2006 with SSBB). Just don't get your hopes up; I did that when E3 was coming up and was severely disappointed with Nintendo's showcase.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Random Video Game Questions


The video game industry is a rather large one. And lately I've been having a few random questions about certain games and certain aspects of games. Enjoy!
  • Why does Metroid Prime 3: Corruption's boxart look so similar to that of Spider-man 3? Must have something to do with both being the third in their series or something like that. Look at it:
  • Why hasn't there been any Boom Blox advertising campaigns that really emphasize the Steven Spielburg part of things? I mean, the game hasn't been that much of a success financially. So why no advertising that Steven Spielburg helped make it?
  • In a lot of video games, why do NPCs say the same things over and over? Take the Pokemon games for example. You talk to so random women in some city and she says how much she loves her Bulbasaur. Talk to her again, and she says the exact same thing. Don't you think they'd get tired of saying it over and over? Just a thought.
  • Why so many drum peripherals? With Rock Band already out, there's one drum peripheral on the market. But soon Guitar Hero: World Tour will come out with a five pad, one pedal drum set (one more pad than Rock Bands). And then Konami's Rock Revolution will come out with a six pad, one pedal drum peripheral. What's with all the variety? I mean, all the guitars are basically the same in the games, so why the differences of the drums sets?
  • Why have there been so many Soul Caliber IV ads on the back of gaming magazines? My last two Electronic Gaming Monthlys and my latest Game Informer have all had the same Soul Caliber advertisements on their back covers. It's like some kind of advertising conspiracy! Ahh!
  • In certain games, why can you just walk into people's houses and they won't care? In these games, when you do walk into a random person's house they'll strike up a conversation with you and maybe give you an item. But nope, no questions about you breaking and entering.
That rounds up some random questions I've had with video games lately. So what did you think? Have any questions like this? Tell me in the comments

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Upcoming Wii Games

I've been seeing a lot of articles like this lately, and I decided to write one of my own.

It will be upon us soon...

With E3 just around the corner, there will definitely be some new games to look forward to. But rewind back to the present, and there are already quite a few Wii games to be excited for. Today I've chosen the games that I'm hungry for every bit of news and every little tidbit about. Enjoy!

de Blob

Platform(s): Wii, DS
Release Date: September 26, 2008 (USA)
This colorful platformer from THQ is shaping up to be awesome. The core concept (in case you haven't heard) is that all the color of the city it's set in has been drained by these evil corportation. And it's your job as de Blob, who can absorb colors, to repaint the city and wipe out the evil corporation known as I.N.K.T. With the flood of recent previews and hands-ons, this is one game I'm really looking forward to.

Wario Land: Shake It!

Platform(s): Wii
Release Date: September 29, 2008 (USA)
Wario returns to his classic series of Wario Land in his latest Wii game. And man does it look fun. The hand drawn style and 2-platforming goodness all add up to another of my most excited games. You hold the Wii-remote classic NES style and it sort of reminds me of Super Paper Mario. Unfortunately there is waggle in the game, such as to get coins out of a bag or to fling yourself up. I only hope they incorporate the shaking parts good, such as in Super Paper Mario.

Guitar Hero: World Tour

Platform(s): PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii, Xbox 360
Release Date: October 27, 2008 (USA)
The first time I had heard of the fourth true entry into the Guitar Hero series was in my magazine Game Informer. There it was only title Guitar Hero 4. Now with the internet abuzz with news and screens of the game, it is titled Guitar Hero: World Tour. It seems to take everything in Rock Band and make it better. It has the four instruments of Rock Band: guitar, bass, microphone, and drums. The drums also look very cool and different from Rock Band's. Another neat feature is the ability to make your own songs. Since the Wii is my only system, I'll be getting it for that. And let me tell you, the Wii version is shaping up to be as good as the XBox 360 and PS3 versions (excluding graphics); it even will have the same downloadable content, a first for any Wii title!

Mega Man 9

Platform(s): WiiWare
Release Date: Fall/Winter 2008 (USA)
Capcom was really thinking about the fans when they decided to make Mega Man 9. With 8-bit graphics, 8-bit music, and Mega Man 2 difficulty, the game practically screams fan service. It's been looking very cool lately. It'll even have downloadable content! I'm really digging the style and can't wait for it.

Not so sure about...
Listed above are the games I'm really excited about; most of those will probably be day one purchases for me (or maybe shortly after). But there are several games I'm not so sure about. the first of these is Star Wars: The Force Unleased. Being set between Episodes III and IV, it looks like a cool entry into the Star Wars universe. But I'm still cautious about the game. Because there's been quite a few good Star Wars games, but there's been a lot of bad ones too. Another game I'm not to sure about is Deadly Creatues, which, if you haven't heard, is being published by THQ (same as de Blob). Basically in the game you take control of either a scorpion or tarantula and play through these environments from their views, fighting other bugs and snake/lizard bosses. It's also supposed to have some sort of interesting back story involving humans.

To round off my article there are two other games I'm pretty excited for, just I don't know a whole lot about them. They are Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse and Monster Hunter 3. Both look pretty cool, but I haven't seen many articles about them.

And that rounds up my most anticipated games for the Wii. What games are you excited for? Agree/disagree with my picks? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Boom Blox (Wii) review

Developer: EA Los Angelos
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Date Released: May 6, 2008 (USA)
MSRP: $49.99
Players: 1-4
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Recently, I watched all three of the original Indiana Jones to reacquaint myself with the globetrotting adventurer before seeing the latest one (which I haven't even gotten around to seeing yet!). So when the name Steven Spielburg comes to mind, I think more of Indiana Jones, giant sharks, or extraterrestrial beings, not colorful, kiddie blocks blowing up and flying everywhere. But apparently, Spielburg had a lot to do with my latest bought game, Boom Blox. But how good is the game really?

Boom Blox is definitely one of the uniquest experiences I've had on the Wii since Wii Sports. The basics of the game all revolve around a very powerful physics engine. Nintendo really has emphasized the term "innovation" this generation, and EA knows exactly what they're talking about.

The basics of the game include this: you throw a ball, shoot a laser gun, or try to pull out blocks Jenga style. There's hundreds of puzzles. Each of them has some sort of goal represented in bronze, silver and gold medals. In the point based puzzles you have to knock away the positive point values while keeping the negatives intact. You're overall score in each decides what medal you get (if you get one at all). Then there's the gem puzzles, in which you're awarded medals on how many throws it takes you to knock all the certain blocks down. Then there's the Jenga puzzles where you try pulling out blocks without toppling the entire structure. There's so much variety in the puzzles it's astounding.


Not only is there variety in the puzzles, there's tons of different blocks and block characters to make the puzzles even more unique. For example, there's the chemical blocks. These blocks will explode when they make contact with another chemical block, which leads to some interesting puzzles. There's also vanish blocks (which do just that, disappear once hit), point blocks, and bomb blocks (which explode). Not only are there different blocks, there's different characters that inhabit the different levels. Some will throw balls and random thing, which will both help and hinder your success, while others will light off bomb blocks or something along those lines.

There are three basic modes in Boom Blox: Play, Party, and Create. The first, Play is what you'll be doing a lot of alone. It has two other modes in it: Explore and Adventure. The former includes around 70 or so puzzles grouped according to the whole "block" it based around (e.g. Chemical, Vanish, Points, etc.). While the latter of the listed (Adventure mode), includes the basic story part of the game. It's a little silly. It concerns different aspects of the little block character adventures. You may be searching for lost gems as the sheep or defending your fortresses from rampaging, attacking bears. It's fun and a step away from the basic puzzles, but I found it a little stupid and enjoyed Explore mode far more. Plus, once you've beaten certain requirements of both modes, you'll unlock even more Explore and Adventure puzzles.

As for Party, this is the multiplayer aspect of the game. And let me tell you it's as fun or maybe even a bit more fun that single-player. There's two more modes in this to: Cooperative and Competitive, which are just that. In the latter, you're competing to either get the most points or pull blocks out of a tower without toppling it over. While in the former, you're working together to complete puzzles. Multiplayer is where the game really shines in my opinion, as it is a great party game. It's shame it won't sell very well, for it doesn't have the words Party in the title (but Boom Blox Party just sounds lame).

Create mode.

Boom Blox also includes a really unique, deep Create mode. Basically you can make any puzzle you want, as long as it will stand up according to the physics. I can see a lot of people going full out and making complex and awesome puzzles. But I really didn't have many ideas for the puzzles. Another nice feature is the ability to edit any of the puzzles already on the disc.

While the gameplay and multiplayer gameplay really shine, the graphics aren't so great. It's a cartooney style that doesn't really fit the game. Because the difficulty certainly isn't for children. The graphics are mediocre for a Wii game, but really don't downgrade the game that much.

To go along with the average graphics, is the audio of Boom Blox. The music is pretty forgettable, but the sound effects are a little funny. The cries of chickens and baboons are funny, but overall the audio is nothing amazing. At least it's not unpleasant to the ears.

And last but not least, you may be wondering how long this game will last you. Well, I have two words for you: a while! Just like the back of the box boasts, Boom Blox includes a whopping 300 single-player puzzles and over 100 multiplayer levels. Plus the with the level creator/editor, you could pretty much say the game never ends.

Overall Thoughts

Boom Blox is a great third-party game and an excellent game for your shiny, white box. The single- and multiplayer offerings are where it's at. The graphics and audio aren't so good, but the awesome physics engine keeps things new, as you'll almost never have the exact same reaction as the last time.

Gameplay: 9/10 The complex physics and originality of the game really make this game a must-have.

Multiplayer: 9/10 Great for parties, or even for a friend or two just hanging out.

Graphics: 7.5/10 Not so great, but no so terrible. As I said before, they don't really diminish the experience.

Sound: 7/10 Mediocre. Period.

Lasting Value: 9.5/10 Boom Blox will last you a long time. With over 400 puzzles total, it has some serious replayability.


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Boom Blox Review Delayed

Due to internet problems and exhaustion, I've decided to postpone my review of Boom Blox until tomorrow. I'm growing tireder by the minute and my internet is really giving me problems. I've been trying to access IGN to get some screenshot for the article but my computer keeps displaying some stupid FireFox Cannot Display message. Nothing against FireFox, but everything against my crappy internet provider (come on! It's barely faster than my old dial-up!), I've been very pissed with my internet as of late. I'll have the review up tomorrow, I promise. Until then, see ya!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Games I've Been Playing Lately

This is the kind of article I do when my brain's completely dead... Enjoy! Happy 4th to all you Americans out there. And to everyone else, have a good weekend!

As of late, four different games have sucked me in. All of them are entertaining and enjoyable. Two of them I recently purchased, while the other two I've been playing for quite a while.

Mario Kart Wii

System: Wii
Just the other day I finally beat that very annoying Mirror Mode. It really stumps me why they put it in. I mean come on, it's the same courses just left and right are reversed. How original is that? Nonetheless, you may be thinking, well now that he's finished with the Grand Prix, he's done with the game. No way. The online is so addicting. I think my win count is in the 1000's and losses around 800 or so. Right now my rating is 6400 or so. I simply love the online in this game. Like Mario Kart (even just a little)? Want a great online experience? This is a no-brainer. I'll probably keep playing this for months to come.

Full review here.

Boom Blox

System: Wii
I recently bought Boom Blox, and let me tell you: it's fun! And not just the easy, kiddy fun that the visuals suggest, it is extremely difficult too. There's so much to this game. Over 300 challenges (including the story mode), over 100 multiplayer stages, and the level creator. Plus you can go back and edit any stage you've unlocked, how sweet is that? So far I've beaten almost all of Explore Mode (except for those pesky, Jenga style puzzles) and a few of the Adventure Mode challenges. And it says I'm only 20% done! This is one huge and entertaining game.

I'll have a review up sometime next week.


System: Wii (via WiiWare)
Besides Boom Blox, I have purchased one other game of late: Gyrostarr. Available through WiiWare, and priced at $7 this is the kind of game you expect to find on WiiWare. It's a simple shooter that has a cool, sci-fi/techno feel to it. It's fun and has some unique concepts as far as shooters go. But overall it's an average game that I'm enjoying. There's supposedly 50 or so levels in it. I've only played a couple of hours of it and I'm only at level 13 or 14.

Full review here.

New Super Mario Bros.

System: Nintendo DS
Don't get me wrong, I beat this game a long time ago. But I decided to pick it back up and play through the game. Not try to beat every level or get every star coin, just play through Worlds 1 to 8, all the way up to that (somewhat) climatic battle with Bowser at the end. I'm on the last couple levels of World 8 as we speak; it's not that long of a game after all. But let me tell you: it's still super fun the second time through. I really hope they announce a sequel at E3 or something of the sort. Because this is one of my favorite DS games and a darn good game overall.

That rounds up the four games I've been playing lately. What do you think of them? Gyrostarr rules? Boom Blox sucks? What games have you guys been playing lately? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Gyrostarr (WiiWare) review

Originally I was going to write a Boom Blox review, but I decided I hadn't played enough of it. So I'll review my other recently purchased game: Gyrostarr. Enjoy!

Developer: High Voltage Software
Publisher: High Voltage Software
Date Released: June 23, 2008 (USA)
MSRP: $7.00 (700 Wii Points)
Players: 1-4
Genre: Shooter
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Lately there has been a lot of hype and attention towards High Voltage Software's first-person shooter, The Conduit. So a couple of days after the Conduit was announced, Gyrostarr was to. People started to get really excited about High Voltage and what they were doing with the Wii. Now that Gyrostarr's here, with an interesting price tag of 700 Wii Points, what do I think of it?

Gyrostarr is a Shoot 'Em Up, or SHMUP for short. Games in this sort of genre are filled with hordes of enemies, usually spaceships or other vehicles, and tons of power-ups. Gyrostarr embraces all of these common features. And it adds some unique and cool ones of its own.

First off, you control your little ship in several different ways. The first and easiest (for me) is holding the Wii remote classic, NES style (sideways). The D-Pad controls your ship, 2 for shooting, and 1 for nukes. Simple and effective. Then there's the motions controls, which don't work so well. It's very easy to oversteer and bump into the sides of the level. Nunchuk control and Classic Controller are available too, but I didn't really try out the two. The sideways Wii remote works very nice for me and is the way to go.

The premise of the game is that you're hurtling down these "twisting, turning techno-plasma canal(s) in space." While there's no background as to who you are or why you're doing it, it definitely makes a stylized, speedy shooter. There are half a dozen or so different enemies that you'll face as you fly down these tracks. There's the basic ones that take a hit or two to kill. Then there's those that don't shoot at all but block you unless you shoot them down. Next there's ones that explode and ones that hold tinier ones. There is some variety, but I could use a bit more.

Now for the other aspect common to shooters: power-ups! Gyrostarr has quite a few. They include everything from Triple Shot and Invincibility to Slow Enemies and Fast Shot. Another is the Nuke that will destroy all enemies on the screen. But you'll get an added bonus at the end of each stage if you don't have to use any Nukes. These objects really make the gameplay less stale.

While Gyrostarr has a lot SHMUP basics like power-ups and enemies, it also has some new concepts of it's own. Instead of merely surviving until the end of the stage, you have another goal too. White, floating balls of energy will pass along with enemies and power-ups. You must collect enough of the energy to fill up a bar (in the uppermost section of the screen) before you reach the end of the canal. It's really adds an element other than surviving to the game. The other aspect that Gyrostarr has is the grappling hook. Instead of just touching the power-ups or energy orbs (which you can do), you can also send out a grappling hook to grasp on and pull energy and power-ups to you. It works well and is a nice touch.

Gyrostarr's gameplay.

As for the difficulty, it somewhat lacks in this area. The first five levels are so slow, I'll be surprised if you lose a life. Currently I'm at level 15 or so and it's started to pick up. But still I have barely failed a level yet. With no options for difficulty, I feel High Voltage clearly missed the boat here.

The multiplayer in Gyrostarr is really unique. It blends cooperative with competitive. While you and up to three other players are all working to get enough energy to open the portal at the end. You can also choose to screw the other person up by taking the power-ups and shooting more enemies. At the end of each stage points are given, and it's here than the competitive edge really takes off. To make things balanced, whenever you obtain a power-up or energy orb, you're sent to the back of the order of ships. It keeps the gameplay even and works fine.

The graphics are average for a Wii game. It's nothing we saw in that tech demo of High Voltage's engine, Quantam 3. The techno feel of the game is cool. And the space backgrounds are actually pretty stunning. But as far as effects and the ships/enemies, it's nothing extraorinary.

Gyrostarr has only five or so different tracks that it play through out the game. But they're actually pretty cool. It's all techno, and it really blends with the game. But once again, it's very limited.

With 50 different levels, the game boasts a surprisingly large amount of stages. But while this is a lot for a shooter, it doesn't really do anything in these levels except up the difficulty and add more enemies. It would have really been cool to see some variation, such as boss battles or objective based missions (like survive with one life or use only your regular shot). High Voltage could have done so much more with this, but it will last you a while if you want to complete the game fully.

Overall, the game's actually pretty entertaining, but it's still an average title in all aspects. I'm still waiting for The Conduit to say whether or not the High Voltage is an extraordinary publisher. A decent one? Yes. Exceptional? Not quite yet.

Gameplay: 8/10 It embraces both the old and the new: from enemies and powers to the grappling hook and the energy meter (respectively). Fun while it lasts.

Multiplayer: 8/10 Unique and quite some fun. Combining cooperative with competive is where the multilayer shines.

Graphics: 7/10 Average, but the outer space backgrounds are pretty sweet.

Sound: 7/10 What's there is some pretty cool techno, but not there is variety in the soundtrack.

Lasting Value: 7.5/10 With 50 levels, it may seem quite a deal. But there's not much more in each of the stages besides increased difficulty.


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