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Category: Video Games

May 25, 2007

Lego Star Wars remastered

six months ago:

Every geek wants a lightsaber. When I was playing m's Wii we discussed updating the Lego Star Wars series to use the Wii controls... because it would be awesome. If you can selling a half a dozen different 'remastered'/'special edition'/'classic' versions of the movie, why not have a remastered version of the game as well with cleaned-up graphics and new Wii controls?

Looks like I'm getting my wish: Lego Star Wars to come back with all six movies in one game. "The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions will have online gameplay with drop-in and drop-out capabilities, while the Wii and DS editions will make use of those systems' unique control interfaces."

April 27, 2007

Eye of Judgement

I was never fan of the PS2 EyeToy, so I barely blinked at the announcement of the new HD "Playstation Eye"... but I really started blinking when I saw the Eye of Judgement. Regular readers will recall my fascination with video games in Japan that allow you to interaction using playing cards -- one in particular allowed you to control the movement of your forces by moving your card for that force across the table. That technology, I'm assuming, was RFID-based.

The Eye of Judgement, if I'm interpreting the screenshots correctly, recognizes your playing cards using the EyeToy and then superimposes 3D animations on top of them. It's like Battle Chess for the 21st century. I still won't buy a PS3, but I might marvel at what I'm missing.

eoj.jpg

February 12, 2007

Zelda: Twilight Princess (a bit of a letdown)

zeldaI beat Twilight Princess a couple of days ago but I can't say that it was the pinnacle of Zelda gameplay that I had hoped it would be. Instead of propelling the franchise forward, I felt more that it stepped backwards to Ocarina of Time with spruced up graphics. If I had played Twilight Princess before Ocarina, then I'd probably be inclined to call Twilight Princess the best game ever, and plenty of reviews have referred to it as the best Zelda ever. For me, the lack of novelty occasionally left me bored. The visual design was also a step backwards. Wind Waker was the most expressive Link to date and it truly helped the storytelling. The Twilight Link is a plastic doll barely able to raise a single eyebrow of emotion. For someone like me who buys the next Nintendo platform to play Zelda, I perhaps have unsurmountable expectations that, until the Wii, have been met. Strange, considering that the Wii has been the most impressive platform release for me, ever.

My reaction is best understood when touring of some of the past Zeldas. (bolded titles were the next-generation releases):

  • Legend of Zelda: this game was amazing for its time, but without friends and Nintendo Power to tell you where to bomb, I probably never would have finished this game.
  • Zelda II: never played more than a dungeon or two as the side-scroller never caught my attention
  • A Link to the Past: this game greatly expanded the Zelda story and universe. It established the story elements and puzzle mechanics that are general basis of later Zelda games (Hyrule Castle, hookshot, parallel universe, master sword as story element).
  • Ocarina of Time: took Zelda into 3D and ranks as one of my favorite games off all time. I'm still amazed as to how well the designers were able to translate Zelda-ness into 3D.
  • Majora's Mask: I enjoyed this game, even if it did reuse of the Ocarina engine. It was not a next-generation Zelda, nor was it meant to be, but it had an entertaining 3-day story construct that made it different from previous Zelda. It also had a complete lack of a Hyrule/Ganon storyline, which kept it a fresh experience. I am impressed that they managed to deliver a game that was so similar to its predecessor in technology and feel, but different enough to remain entertaining.
  • Wind Waker: The Gamecube-based toon shading helped deliver the best visual design of any Zelda (still) with Link actually able to emote and use facial expressions as clues. It also introduced a continuous world, but had to hide load times in large expanses of sea. I appreciated the fact that they took a risk and did away with the Hyrule-Castle-spoke-and-wheel map model and I loved the game overall, but like many, I eventually tired of the sailing -- you know its bad when you can point your boat, go to the bathroom, and still not have arrived where you need to. With an outboard motor and a more densely populated world, it could have been a perfect game.

Then you come to Twilight Princess. Twilight is weird because it is a Gamecube game ported to the Nintendo Wii, so its not truly a next-generation effort. But it is also entirely different from its Gamecube-brother Wind Waker. Regardless, it is not a game designed for the Wii. This isn't necessary a bad thing, but for Zelda games its uncommon. I've often joked that Nintendo designs each next-generation controller for Zelda -- the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube controllers both seem a bit odd until you play the Zelda game for that system. Along this line of thinking, for Twilight to truly be a next-generation Zelda experience, the Wiimote would have to be more than a tacked-on experience. Unfortunately, it's clear that you could play the game with a Gamecube controller as everything (except for fishing, which I hate) has the same mechanics as Ocarina/Wind Waker.

About the only time I found the Wiimote really engaging was during certain boss fights that required Link to plunge his sword into the big boss. I found myself gripping the Wiimote like a dagger and violent plunging it into the air. These were the moments I was hoping to have more of. I'm hoping that Miyamoto has a true Nintendo Wii Zelda cooking in the oven, one that takes previous Zelda mechanics like the ocarina, wind waker, and howling and gives them the fun, stand-up experience of the Wii.

February 9, 2007

Mortal Kombat for Wii

Gamespot has an interview and demo video with Ed Boon of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Watching Boon swing around the controller forward and back to throw Scorpion's spear has me pretty excited to see the fighting game genre adapted to Wii controls, even if I was more of a Street Fighter II player than Mortal Kombat back in the day. Quarter-circles, semi-circles, and forward-back motions look far more graceful when executed with a Wiimote.

Mortal Kombat is the first game that I've seen to take a different control perspective for the Wiimote. Wii Sports, Warioware, SSX: Blur and Madden: 07 are all first-person control systems that requires you to think of the characters on the screen as your avatar. Mortal Kombat appears to have chosen a god-perspective control system that makes the character on the screen your puppet. Instead of flinging the Wii controller forward as you would if you were Scorpion in the game, you flick it from left-to-right or right-to-left depending on whether Scorpion is facing right or left. The Mii Creator shares this same god perspective and I'm sure that there are others, but this video was a fresh take for me.

February 7, 2007

Miis/Lookalikes/Doppelgangers

Time to clear some similar tabs building up:

Mii Office by n1c2c8 is disturbingly spot-on. d and I haven't been able to do half as well on our own.

Mii Office by n1c2c8

But perhaps we should just drop $5 and have the 'pros' at Miistation make us one.

Finally, it's not a Mii, but it is doppelgangish: Metamerist's McCain/Tigh comparison means someone can kill two birds with one Mii stone.

Metamerist: McCain/Tigh

January 24, 2007

Zelda: Twilight Princess and Okami, separated at birth?

compare.okami.jpg

compare.zelda.twp.jpg

I'm only throught the first temple in Zelda: Twilight Princess, but I'm already struck by how much more similar Okami and Zelda are than I originally thought. More specifically, I'm shocked by how close Twilight Princess and Okami are. It's as if they shared the exact same concept art when they were being created. The spirits that you free in Twilight Princess are very, very similar in design to the gods you free in Okami, both feature darkness covering the land that you clear bit by bit, both have a wolf as the main title character, and both have an annoying companion character that rides your back as a wolf. Above you can see screenshots of the spirits/gods for comparison -- I wasn't able to find good screenshots on the Web, but these should give you a general idea.

They are still very different games and I am enjoying both. They are twins that were separated at birth and grew up in to very different adults. Both feature unique gameplay features that are fun to explore: Okami has its brush system and Twilight Princess delivers the Wii remote fun. The overall stories, despite their similarities, are also very different. But I'm still surprised when I come across yet another thing in Twilight Princess that makes me think that someone snuck a peek at the concept art from the other.

January 22, 2007

Wii'd up

I got my Wii, an extra Wiimote + nunchuk, WarioWare Smooth Moves, Madden 07, and (of course) Zelda: Twilight Princess. I played a game of Madden '07 so I could ignore the Saints being beaten by the Bears, broke-in my Mii on Wii Sports, and I played several crack-smoking levels of Wario -- odd(ly) fun(ny) is how I can best describe it. Zelda: Twilight Princess remains on the shelf -- I wish to savor it, much like how one saves the best part of a meal for last.

My Wii Code is 1418 3492 0962 8370. Get your own WiiBadge at WiiBadge.com!

FYI: Although it was not my source, I highly recommend Target for future Wii purchases (unless you're going for the $50 trade-in that Gamestop is offering). Targets in Sunnyvale and Mountain View had 70-80 Wiis. Best Buy had 30. Circuit City had 18.

December 19, 2006

Review: Okami

Okami is a Zelda-ish game, which is a statement that became much more true with the release of the latest Zelda: in Okami you run around as a wolf, the sun goddess Amaterasu; in Twilight Princess you can also run around as a wolf. In both games you explore an ever-expanding world utilizing your latest tools and tricks to solve puzzles along the way, occasionally take in a side quest of fishing, and pace yourself through big boss encounters. I point out the similarities mostly to say that if you don't like the Zelda format, you won't like Okami. Okami has plenty to offer in the way of new gameplay and story that makes the game uniquely enjoyable.

Okami's major innovation in gameplay is the brush system -- you draw brush strokes across your screen to trigger special effects, like slashes, fire, slowdown, and repair. Much like Ocarina of Time's ocarina, the brush offers a new blend of puzzles and encounters. To draw a brush storke, you hold down the R1 button, which turns the screen into a brown parchment, and then draw the appropriate stroke using the analog control stick. I have a feeling this would be easier with a Wiimote, but it worked well enough as is. My only complaint is that the brown parchment effect makes it difficult sometimes to tell what you are drawing up top of. Otherwise, it was a fun way to feel like you are the sun goddess exercising some divine intervention.

Okami is a very beautiful game. In fact, it is the most beautiful game I have ever played. I don't consider myself an expert in such matters, but I find the statement notable for the fact that Okami is a Playstation 2 game and I have yet to see an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 game that is as visually interesting. Clover, the studio that made the game, used their Viewtifl Joe experience to its fullest. The game is rendered with watercolor-like strokes, flowers flow over your screen in waves, and old-style Japanese prints narrate the story.

For a beautiful game, though, it has some dirty elements. It's dirty as in poop: it is the first game I played in which urination is an attack option (and quite profitable, as it helps you collect dragon fangs faster). It's also dirty as in mildly lewd: at least one of the female characters is quite busty and has her own busty physics.

I was indifferent to the 'dirtier' aspects of Okami, but there were aspects I really didn't like. One is that it is a very, very easy game. The first several hours are maddenly easy -- you'll guess the solution to the easy puzzle, then before you can solve it, the game will show you another obvious hint. The game eases up a bit on the overly overt hints, but it never gets difficult. For one thing, I never died once in the game and I rarely came close. Another aspect of the game's easiness that I didn't like is Issun, who is like Tingle in Wind Waker, except that he never leaves. Issun is always there to shout childish things at other characters and provide puzzle hints. At least he is woven into the story quite well, but I have a visceral dislike of goofy assistance characters.

One other complaint is that I felt the game designers artificially lengthened the game. At least two of the level designs used the exact same maps with different textures and a lot of the side quests were simply variations on previous side quests. There are other ways the game repeats itself, but I'll omit them for spoiler reasons.

Any complaints I have, though, are far outweighed by what this game has to offer. This is an award-worthy game offering new twists in a familar genre. And did I mention it's beautiful?

Summary: * It's beautiful * The brush system is a fun new way to play * It's really easy * It's longer than it needs to be * Only play this if you like Zelda

December 12, 2006

Getting closer to awesomeness

Every geek wants a lightsaber. When I was playing m's Wii we discussed updating the Lego Star Wars series to use the Wii controls... because it would be awesome. If you can selling a half a dozen different 'remastered'/'special edition'/'classic' versions of the movie, why not have a remastered version of the game as well with cleaned-up graphics and new Wii controls?

Perhaps its best to call it a proof-of-concept of awesomeness, but checkout WiiSaber. WiiSaber lets you connect your WiiMote to your Mac and wave it around with appropriate lightsaber noises. It's an update to MacSaber, which lets you swing around your MacBook and make lightsaber noices. Engadget has videos.

December 11, 2006

Now I'm sore from Wii

wii.gifIt's a good sore, but I'm definitely feeling the effects of my boxing bout against littlestar. It was almost as tiring as the real thing, but with less bruising.

I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said in hundreds of similar reviews. You can sit on the couch, flick your wrists, and do quite well in the games. But the Wii invites you to stand, to take the full swing instead of the little flick, because your little Mii on the screen is you. Psychologically, it's just too difficult to sit; you're engaged. It's the most socially intelligent game system I have ever played.

There are problems here and there. The motion sensing isn't as precise as you want it to be and it doesn't work for some games (e.g. Excite Truck), but who cares? It's a whole lot better than repeatedly mashing the A or X button. I can't wait for sword fighting games and DDR++ and the mythical Harry Potter spell-casting wand.

November 22, 2006

If you really really want one

Toys R' Us is now selling their Wii bundles online:

The action bundle is the only one of the two that has the games I want, but $600 is a bit too rich for my tastes right now as I am still finishing up some PS2 games.

June 13, 2006

New Super Mario Bros

newsupermario.jpgI don't think I've ever reviewed a game on my blog, except to briefly note when I beat Zelda: Wind-Waker. This is mainly because I don't play that videogames that often. I will often buy the latest Nintendo console just to play Zelda, and while the SSX series had me obsessed with virtual snowboarding, it's really the classics that bring me out of semi-retirement. When I saw that New Super Mario Bros was coming out, it was the first order I placed when I returned from Japan with my DS lite.

It's a fun remake of the original side-scrollers and I love the nice touches they added in, like when the enemies jump in unison to the music. I also like that they maintained the ultimate boss-defeating strategy of the original (I view that as a spoiler as much as saying, "Kong dies"). The main game doesn't make that much use of the dual screen capabilities of the DS, which would probably interfere with the remake quality, but the minigames will test your dexterity with the touch pad.

I stopped caring about the Super Mario series when they went into 3D, which is not a complaint about 3D: I became even more obsessed with Zelda when it went into 3D. The transition into 3D for Zelda was a natural progression of the series for me, whereas Super Mario Bros lost its essential character. Zelda is a game about exploration; Super Mario is about getting from point A to point B in a straight line, occassionally taking a shortcut through a pipe. The levels are short, which is good because I don't want to aggravate my wrists, and even though the overall game is fairly short, there's plenty of sub-missions like, "collect all the gold coins," to keep completists occupied a bit longer.

ArsTechnica Review of New Super Mario Bros

Continue reading "New Super Mario Bros" »

August 23, 2005

PSP: Partial Results

I've had more time to play with the PSP now that I got a 1GB memory stick for it. I succesfully downloaded some episodes of Battlestar Galactica that I had missed and re-encoded them for my PSP. Most of the setup was painless, but there is a lot of waiting between steps. At least I have several episodes now so that should hold me for awhile.

I had a much worse time trying to get TiVo programs onto my PSP. It appears that either you're lucky and it works or you're unlucky and you have to add some extra time-consuming steps and software. I'm an unlucky one so I'll have to re-experiment with my other options to see how they work out. I'd rather it not take 10 minutes for me to load 45 minutes worth of programming to watch on the train; at that point I'll just go back to reading books.

I dream of the process as simple as iPod + iTunes, though we as consumers have much less control over our video as we do our music. If Sony were consumer-friendly, they would have released a program for the PSP that would let me transfer my DVDs onto it painlessly. Instead, they want me to pay $21 for a UMD version of Kill Bill even though the DVD version is only $15. Go figure. The only comparison that comes to mind would be if Apple had released the iPod and told it's customers that it would only play $20 albums from the iTunes Music Store.

August 15, 2005

Giving in

A kinda sorta, but not really, broke my Sony boycott by getting a Sony PSP. But I don't think I actually technically broke the boycott as I got it at a charity auction, which means none of my dollars ended up in Sony's pocket. However, as I am now obligated to buy things for the PSP, like more memory with which to store episodes of the Daily Show and Battlestar Galactica, it all goes to show that I really have no backbone when it comes to gadget issues.

Steve Jobs can diss handheld video all he wants -- I watched Spiderman 2 on Sunday and I found it liberating to be able to walk around the house and do my chores (cooking, typing, photo retouching) while being entertained by a movie I love. The video quality is as good as a TV and is beautiful any which way you look at it. The true test, though, will be how easy I find it to load new videos onto it, which I will test out as soon as my larger memory card arrives.

May 25, 2005

Katamari Damacy (Evil Cute III)

honeyfields, ln m, and I teamed up to beat Katamari Damacy (actually, it was honeyfields who did most of the work, we just came in near the end). Unlike Grand Theft Auto, Katamari is family friendly because it makes horrific death and destruction of animals, people, and towns cute.

March 17, 2004

AI in computer games

I like video games. I work in an AI lab. I am compelled to post this: AI in Computer Games - Can Computer Games Employ AI Artfully? (ACM Queue)

September 10, 2003

Zelda Complete!

The first sign that my vacation is productive: I finished Zelda: Wind-Waker today. I got far really fast in the game, then I stopped playing. I think I was really, really bored of sailing from island to island. Note to developers: at least let Link get an outboard motor or something. Even with the warp tune you still spend WAY to much time sailing around. For example, to get a Triforce shard you have to 1) sail to the island with the map, 2) sail to Tingle's island to get Tingle to read the map for you, 3) sail to the location on the map to pick up your piece. Given that there are 8 triforce shards, this just seems like an artificial way to make the game longer.

My verdict: while the game is beautiful, and the game play is fun, there simply is not enough content to justify how long it takes to finish the game. Although I think the other Zelda games had plenty of travel time, its a lot more interesting to be walking on land where there's scenery than it is to be sailing around with nothing but blue around you.

July 10, 2003

Environmental Video-gaming

KoKoRo posted a link to a new Gameboy Advance game in Japan that has a sunlight sensor on the cartridge. In order to use the "Sun Gun" weapon, the player has to first get power from real sunlight. This seems like a really novel idea - in addition to being a way to keep the kids out of the house it reminded me a lot of the Context-Aware Photography folks that want to include sensors in digital cameras to affect the image taken.
- KoKoRo: A Sun Sensor ame : Go outside, Get sun light and play GBA!

March 9, 2003

BRE: The End

I'm finally finished with BRE. I got annihilated by Datastream, Gameland, and Gargoyle's. This board that we picked turned out to be completely lame, with the three best boards ganging up on the mid-tier boards. The matchup wasn't even close, and the conduct was hardly respectable.

February 16, 2003

BRE: First day of freedom

A friend of mine got me into playing BRE, which is this old BBS game that they've updated to allow inter-BBS play (you telnet into the BBS server). The game brings back a lot of memories of old BBS days. Today is my regions first day of freedom, so we'll see how things go.