Tag: Nintendo

To-Do

Games I've Bought Individually and Haven't Played Yet

  • 20XX
  • CrossCode
  • Disney Afternoon Collection
  • Divinity: Original Sin
  • Steamworld Dig
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X
  • Pyre
  • Hollow Knight
  • Overcooked
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Ys 7
  • Grandia 2
  • Trails in the Sky 2
  • Fallout
  • System Shock 2
  • FarCry
  • Eversion
  • Zissi's Island
  • Paper Mario
  • Shenmue

Games I've Bought in Bundles and Haven't Played Yet

  • Disgaea
  • Disgaea 2
  • Sonic Forces
  • Sonic Lost World
  • Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing
  • Metro 2033 Redux
  • Metro Last Light Redux
  • Crayon Physics
  • Broken Sword 5
  • Tesla Effect
  • Shadowrun: Hong Kong
  • Shadowrun: Dragonfall
  • Age of Wonders 3
  • Xenonauts
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera
  • Dreamfall Chapters
  • Affordable Space Adventures
  • Gauntlet '15
  • Civilization 3
  • Civilization 4: Colonization
  • X-COM: UFO Defense
  • X-COM: Terror From the Deep
  • X-COM: Apocalypse
  • X-COM: Interceptor
  • X-COM: Enforcer
  • Pirates
  • Starships
  • Ace Patrol
  • Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies
  • Chameleon Run
  • Hitman Go
  • Dropsy
  • The Banner Saga
  • Punch Club
  • Super Stickman Golf 3
  • Ys: The Oath in Felghana
  • Ys 6
  • Ys Origin
  • This War of Mine
  • Nuclear Throne
  • Renowned Explorers
  • Nova-111
  • The Magic Circle
  • Super Avalanche
  • Tailwind Prologue
  • Strikbold
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
  • A Boy and His Blob
  • Human Resource Machine
  • Retro City Rampage
  • Morrowind
  • Oblivion
  • Bioshock 2
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Orange Box
    • Half-Life 2
    • Episode 1
    • Episode 2
    • Portal
    • Team Fortress 2
  • Dungeons & Dragons Anthology
    • Baldur's Gate
    • Baldur's Gate 2
    • Icewind Dale
    • Icewind Dale 2
    • Planescape: Torment
    • Temple of Elemental Evil
  • Aquaria
  • Gish
  • Penumbra: Overture
  • Lugaru
  • Trine 2
  • Mark of the Ninja
  • Eets Munchies
  • FTL
  • Rocketbirds
  • LIMBO
  • Shadowman
  • Penny Arcade Episode 2
  • Shank
  • Shank 2
  • The Baconing
  • Plants vs. Zombies: GOTY
  • Fist of Awesome
  • Reaper
  • Super Comboman
  • Ascendant
  • Fist of Jesus
  • Windward
  • Ziggurat
  • Kentucky Route Zero
  • Beholder
  • A Story About My Uncle
  • Neon Drive
  • Double Dragon: Neon

Games I've Bought and Haven't Finished Yet

  • Final Fantasy 15
  • Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
  • SteamWorld Heist
  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Sonic Mania
  • Spider-Man -- Finished 2019-04-16
  • Borderlands 2
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Wasteland 2
  • Shadowrun Returns -- Finished 2018-03-16
  • Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap
  • Dragon Quest Builders
  • Breath of the Wild
  • Super Mario Maker
  • Mad Max -- Finished 2018-02-11
  • Shadow of Mordor
  • Tomb Raider '13 -- Finished 2017-06-13
  • Owlboy
  • Rayman Origins
  • Freedom Planet
  • Civilization 6
  • A Link Between Worlds -- Finished 2014-08-28
  • Majora's Mask
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening -- Finished 2015-03-14
  • Shin Megami Tensei 4
  • Devil Survivor Overclocked
  • Mario Kart 7 -- Finished single-player 2014-07-20
  • Super Mario 3D Land
  • Ys -- Finished 2017-02-04
  • Ys 2
  • Ys: Memories of Celceta -- Finished 2017-02-01
  • Axiom Verge -- Finished 2016-09-11
  • Stardew Valley
  • Mighty No. 9
  • Transformers: Devastation
  • Trails in the Sky
  • The Stick of Truth
  • Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
  • Shovel Knight -- Finished 2016-02-15
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown -- Finished 2016-03-17
  • Civilization 4 -- Finished a full game 2016-01-23
  • Civilization 5 -- Finished a full game 2016-02-14
  • Undertale
  • I Am Setsuna
  • Shantae: Risky's Revenge -- Finished 2016-08-07
  • Adventure of Mana
  • Witcher 3
  • Skyrim
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed
  • Guacamelee -- Finished 2015-02-21
  • Valkyria Chronicles -- Finished 2014-12-20
  • Valkyria Chronicles 2
  • Walking Dead: 400 Days -- Finished 2014-01-05
  • The Wolf Among Us -- Finished 2014-07-18
  • Psychonauts
  • Super Mario Galaxy -- Finished 2013-06-15
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Xenoblade
  • Last Story -- Finished 2013-07-13
  • Red Dead Redemption -- Finished 2018-04-14
  • Gears of War
  • Crackdown
  • Dead Rising
  • Tactics Ogre
  • Star Ocean: First Departure
  • Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles
  • Dragon Quest 9
  • Etrian Odyssey 3
  • Retro Game Challenge
  • Mega Man ZX
  • WarioWare DIY
  • Half-Life
  • Cthulhu Saves the World
  • Bastion
  • DuckTales Remastered -- Finished 2013-08-22
  • World of Goo
  • Samorost 2
  • A Virus Named TOM
  • Fez
  • Brutal Legend
  • Ghostbusters
  • Penny Arcade Episode 1
  • Legend of Grimrock
  • Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril
  • Pier Solar
  • Metroid Prime 2
  • Persona 4
  • Mega Man X8

Games I've Received as Gifts and Haven't Finished Yet

  • Last Remnant
  • Portal 2
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Hatoful Boyfriend
  • Shower with Your Dad Simulator
  • The Walking Dead -- Finished 2013-02-17
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns
  • Kirby's Epic Yarn
  • Mega Man 10
  • Kirby's Canvas Curse
  • Dragon Quest 6

Games I've Borrowed and Haven't Finished Yet

  • Destroy All Humans -- Returned
  • Batman: Arkham City -- Finished 2012-12-02

Games I Got for Free and Haven't Finished Yet

  • AM2R
  • Spelunky
  • Batman: Arkham Knight -- Finished 2015-08-12
  • Batman: Arkham Origins
  • Game of Thrones
  • Monument Valley
  • GTA: San Andreas
  • Wario Land 2
  • Sonic 4 Episode 1
  • Ultimate NES Remix -- Finished 2015-05-24
  • New Super Mario Bros. 2 -- Finished 2015-03-18
  • Torchlight
  • Bioshock
  • Fallout 2
  • Bard's Tale (Android)
  • Mighty Gunvolt -- Finished 2014-09-11
  • Game Dev Story -- Made it to endgame 2014-03-29

Expansions I Haven't Finished Yet

  • Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
  • XCOM: Enemy Within
  • Shovel Knight
    • Plague of Shadows
    • Specter of Torment
    • King of Cards
  • KotOR 2 Content Restoration Mod

Games I've Bought and Haven't Finished Replaying Yet

  • Batman: Arkham City -- Finished 2015-01-06
  • Valkyria Chronicles
  • Mega Man Legends 2
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Sonic CD
  • Mega Man: Powered Up
  • Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X -- Finished 2015-10-12
  • Crisis Core
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Mario Land 2
  • Zelda 2 -- Finished 2013-05-05
  • Final Fantasy 6 Advance
  • DuckTales Remastered
  • Skies of Arcadia

Remakes I Haven't Finished of Games I Have Finished

  • Final Fantasy (PSP)
  • Final Fantasy 4 DS
  • Final Fantasy 5 (Android)
  • Sonic 2 (Android)
  • Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland
  • Mega Man Legacy Collection
  • Dragon Quest 7

ROMs I've Downloaded and Haven't Finished

  • Retro Game Challenge 2
  • SaGa 2 (DS)
  • Earth Bound
  • Earthbound
  • Soul Blazer
  • BS-Zelda -- Time limit ran out; unwinnable; not going to start over
  • BS-Zelda: LttP
  • Sonic 2 Delta
  • Phantasy Star Generation 1
  • Super Mario 3mix

ROMs I've Downloaded and Haven't Played

  • 7th Dragon
  • SaGa 3 (DS)
  • Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem
  • Soma Bringer
  • Tales of Innocence
  • Valkyria Chronicles 3

Games I Got for Free and Haven't Played

  • Teslagrad
  • SOMA
  • Lego Hobbit
  • Lego Lord of the Rings
  • Full Throttle
  • Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
  • Orwell
  • Hacknet Deluxe
  • Unreal Gold
  • Eador: Masters of the Broken World
  • Satellite Reign
  • Crusader Kings 2
  • Spec Ops: The Line
  • The Darkness 2
  • Alcarys Complex
  • F1 2015
  • Lethal League
  • King of Fighters 2002
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent
  • Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
  • Carmageddon TDR 2000
  • Oxenfree
  • Layers of Fear
  • Homefront
  • Grim Fandango Remastered
  • Company of Heroes 2
  • Sanctum 2
  • MDK
  • Syberia
  • Killer is Dead
  • Rising Storm
  • Jotun
  • Shadow Warrior
  • Lost Odyssey
  • GRID
  • DiRT Showdown
  • Dungeons 2
  • Saints Row 2
  • Corporate Lifestyle Simulator
  • Huntsman: The Orphanage
  • Fantasy General
  • Batman: Arkham Origins: Blackgate
  • Tropico 4
  • Bionic Dues
  • Divine Divinity
  • Sonic 4 Episode 2
  • Gothic 2
  • Ultima 4
  • Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire
  • Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams
  • Akalabeth
  • Shadow Warrior Classic
  • Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games
  • Wreckateer
  • Penny Arcade Episode 3
  • Star Command
  • Magrunner: Dark Pulse
  • Warlock: Master of the Arcane
  • Aliens vs. Predator Classic 2000
  • Metro 2033 -- Bought Redux; not planning to play original
  • Teleglitch
  • Mount and Blade
  • Stealth Inc 2
  • Gabriel Knight: SotF20AE
  • Dreamfall Chapters
  • SPACECOM
  • Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
  • Outlast

Games I Got for the Multiplayer
(so finishing them isn't really the point)

  • Katamari Damacy Reroll
  • Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
  • Super Mario 3D World
  • New Super Mario Bros. U
  • New Super Luigi Bros. U
  • Super Smash Bros Wii U
  • Splatoon
  • Mario Kart 8
  • Yoshi's Woolly World
  • DKC Tropical Freeze
  • Goat Simulator
  • Rocket League
  • Pac-Man 256
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Games I've Funded on Kickstarter that Don't Exist Yet

  • Project Phoenix

Samuel Adams Boston Lager

So far this week I have closed a house, looked for work, shopped for cars, and picked the spot where I'm getting married.

Now that I am home, about the only damn major decision I intend to make is what beer to get out of the refrigerator.

And some shirts from Threadless I guess, since I need new T-shirts and Groupon's got a deal.

I'm thinking 8-Bit Blues and Halfling and Wizard. (I'm sorely tempted by the Mike Allred Monkey Around shirt -- and it's only $10! -- but it looks like it would be goddamn hot in the summer.)

Rellenos and Republicans

Still can't quite get this beer batter thing right. 4:1 ratio of beer to flour is just runny liquid; 2:1 is pancake mix again. I'm thinking maybe next time I won't mix the flour in, I'll just dunk the chili in the beer and egg and then roll it in the flour.


I really do love that the Senate Conservatives Fund decided to say, "Hey, remember that guy who said that really offensive thing that made our entire party look bad who we said we wouldn't give any money to? Let's give him three hundred grand and see what happens." and he immediately turned around and said more crazy misogynistic shit.

First of all: instant karma is the best kind of karma. After all, if you wait an hour before you whack your dog on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper, he will not make any connection between what he did wrong and the fact that you are punishing him. This way, even the dimmest conservative organization can't possibly help but think "I just made a huge mistake."

Second: It's always better to see right-wing organizations throw their money down a bottomless pit than contribute it to races where it might actually help their candidate. (Like all that money Sheldon Adelson threw at Newt Gingrich. You know, for a casino magnate he's really pretty terrible at predicting odds.)

And speaking of candidates who they could have helped, that brings us to #3: this is actually hurting other candidates who they've endorsed in close Senate races. The Dems in Massachusetts are calling for Scott Brown to give their donation back and they're going to try to hang it around his neck until the election.

(Now, in point of fact, I don't especially dislike Scott Brown; I think he may very well be the only Republican left in the Senate who might actually be willing to compromise to get laws passed. And I wouldn't be devastated if he were reelected. Nor do I want him to lose his seat because I care unduly about the numbers game -- the Democrats couldn't pass shit when they had 59 seats plus Lieberman; there's really not a hell of a lot of difference between 45 Democrats and 60 Democrats, thanks to the automatic filibuster.

But Elizabeth Warren is legitimately my single favorite person running for office this election, and I would love to see her win, not because she's a Democrat but because she's Elizabeth Warren.)


Playing: Decided to take a crack at Soul Blazer. So far it's pretty neat!

Adjust That Score and Play Some More

Xeni Jardin posted this video on BoingBoing. It's a jest.com montage of Phil Moore singing along to the theme music on Nick Arcade.

In the comments section, someone going by Seg links to a Splitsider interview with Moore and the creators of the show, James Bethea and Karim.

On the so-famous-somebody-made-a-montage-of-it song-and-dance silliness, the piece has this to say:

And there‚Äôs his rather — at times — goofy antics (which he also told me he can now look back on and laugh about, wondering "what kind of crack was I smoking," explaining to me that he only would so indulge when he felt the kids were freaking out so bad about being on a nationally televised show that if he was weird enough, nothing they could do would embarrass them).

There's some fascinating stuff in there -- I never thought about the logistical challenge of the simple four-directional decision tree for Mikey's movements on the game board. Dragon's Lair was out nearly a decade before Nick Arcade aired, but of course there's a difference between burning LaserDiscs for mass distribution and having one put together especially for an episode of a game show. Or at least there was 20 years ago; you can do all that shit on a phone now.

Other interesting subjects: making sure the girls on the show were comfortable; not realizing Moore was the only African-American game show host on TV at the time; the surprising ease with which they convinced the major publishers to send them games, even betas.

Those betas, of course, have become important to the collector community; most notably, the Sonic 2 prototype, which made its way into the wild some 14 years later. It includes the Hidden Palace Zone, which was teased in magazine previews but didn't make it into the final version of the game (causing, as you might expect, all manner of proto-Internet rumors in its day), and contains a whole lot of leftover material from the original Sonic, proving that Sonic 2 was built on top of the Sonic 1 code.

A silly little show, probably mostly forgotten -- funny how cutting-edge the thing actually was.

(And I don't know about you, but I was singing "Adjust that score and play some more, adjust that score and play some more..." before I pressed Play.)

(Also funny: "Fillmore", by coincidence, is the name of the first area on Act Raiser -- which was featured on Nick Arcade.)

Monkeys Aren't Donkeys

Something that always bothered me:

Okay. So Cranky Kong is supposed to be the original Donkey Kong, right? Except now he's old and cantankerous and has a long white beard.

Except here's the problem: Donkey Kong was released in 1981. Donkey Kong Country was released in 1994.

Now, I'm no expert on anthropomorphic video game gorilla physiology. But it seems to me that thirteen years is a bit of a short time to shrivel up and grow a long white beard. (And that's without even considering DK's appearance in the 1994 Donkey Kong remake just months earlier, looking perfectly healthy.)

I guess that, of all the places to draw a line in the sand for suspension of disbelief in a game about anthropomorphic, barrel-hucking gorillas, "How did that one get so old so fast?" seems rather an arbitrary place for it. But dammit, it bugged me.

And it gets worse: Donkey Kong Country Returns, released in 2010, a full 16 years after the original DKC (and 14 after DKC3) -- nobody has visibly aged. Donkey Kong, Cranky Kong, and all the rest look exactly the same as they did in 1994. 1981-1994: dramatic visible aging. 1994-2010: no aging whatsoever.

Unless -- and here's my theory -- the original Donkey Kong died of old age, the Cranky Kong in DKCR is actually the 16-bit Donkey Kong now old and decrepit, and the Donkey Kong you're playing as is actually...a now-fully-grown Kiddy Kong.

Course, then you still have to explain Diddy, Funky, and the rest of the Kong family.

Anyway. Here's the trailer for Wreck-It Ralph. Which, while not technically a movie about Donkey Kong, appears to be a much-better-thought-out story of Donkey Kong's journey from villain to hero than the Donkey Kong Country series.

Migraine

Stayed home from work today with a migraine. One of the worst of my damn life -- no nausea with this one, fortunately, at least, not at first, but just this awful skull-crushing agony as if a thousand Thetans were pounding at the inside of my skull trying to ec-scape.

Woke me up at about 3:15 AM, too, which to the best of my recollection is a first. I've often woken up in the morning with a migraine, but seldom in the middle of the night. I was covered in sweat, too; don't know if that's some new and exciting feature of the migraine, or if I was running a fever, or just because I live in Tempe, Arizona and it is June and our lows are around 80 degrees this time of year.

Got up at 6, called in, popped a prescription migraine pill (with codeine!), and went back to bed for a fitful in-and-out-of-consciousness "sleep" until about 11 AM.

(Tangentially: I had a job, a couple of years ago, where some middle-management fuckwit had the bright idea of combining the sick line with the help desk. One day I called in and, hours later, got a call from work asking where the hell I was -- I explained that I'd called in, but apparently the help desk hadn't gotten around to my ticket yet. I came in the next day to discover that my ticket had finally been submitted at 4:45 PM, which, as you might suppose, is not the optimal time to let an office know that a worker will not be coming in today. Like, I think by 4:45, they've probably worked that out.

Best of all, I was then randomly selected to fill out a survey about how satisfied I was with my interaction with the help desk.

I made a point of not raking the tech over the coals -- I noted that help desk techs have a lot on their plate and often poor mechanisms for prioritizing their tickets; if you've ever worked help desk I don't need to tell you that nobody ever submits a ticket as low- or medium-priority -- and said that trying to combine the sick line with the help desk line was a fundamentally bad idea.)

Anyway. Ate some instant ramen, washed another codeine down with a few cups of coffee, and that managed to knock the headache down from "I can barely move" to "dull, ever-present throbbing". And I don't know if it was the codeine, the caffeine, or the pain, but by this point my coordination was completely shot.

Then I fired up the ol' Nintendo.

There's something I learned, around the age of 12 or 13: playing video games helps with the pain.

My mom and my grandparents didn't really buy that, and I suppose under the circumstances I can't blame them -- I was, after all, saying I had a migraine, and then staying home from school and playing video games all day.

But now there's research backing what I understood intuitively as a child: video games have an anesthetic effect. In recent years there have been studies in distraction therapy suggesting that video games have a real and measurable impact on pain management. (For one example: Applications of virtual reality for pain management in burn-injured patients, via the NIH, 2009. There have been other studies besides.)

I find that quieter games tend to be a bit better. And games that don't have a lot of text, because reading makes my head hurt.

I also tend to gravitate toward the familiar, stuff from when I was a kid -- Super Mario World and the like -- and I suspect there's a "comfort food" aspect to this. Though, on the other hand, SMW requires twitch reflexes, and when my reflexes are scrambled by codeine and caffeine it can be a much more frustrating game -- which doesn't help with pain.

Knowing that, today I started with Xenoblade. It's not too heavy on the text, I'm over-leveled enough that it's pretty low-key and not difficult or frustrating, and it doesn't require much in the way of hand-eye coordination or precise movements. (Well, most of it doesn't. Fuck you, Valak Mountain.)

But what it does have is big, vertigo-inducing vistas. Fuck. I was about three minutes in before I started getting nauseous and had to turn it off. Don't know if that's the migraine or the codeine, but I popped a motion sickness pill and decided to try Super Mario World after all.

I picked up my save from the last time I had a migraine and worked my way through Twin Bridges. So I guess my reflexes weren't completely shot.

Then I had a hot bath.

Now here's a question: what the fuck is up with bathtubs?

The standard American bathtub is a rectangle, and it's, what, four and a half, five feet long? And its deepest point is where your fucking feet go.

Who came up with that shit?

I'm actually kinda curious: were bathtubs designed this way because of the belief that baths are for children and teeny-tiny elfin women, or is it that only children and teeny-tiny elfin women take baths because no average-sized human adult can fucking fit in one comfortably?

Decided not to shave afterward. Still jittery. Just because I have the wherewithal to abandon Yoshi to a tragic fate on my way to Soda Lake doesn't mean I trust myself to run sharp objects across my face.

Anyhow. Guess my point is, "staying home playing video games" isn't always as much fun as it sounds. Sometimes it doesn't mean you're slacking. Sometimes it means you're doing everything you can to deal with excruciating pain.

All things considered I'd much rather have gone to work. Because aside from the "excruciating pain" thing, I don't get sick pay, and I'll spend tomorrow playing catchup.

So it goes, I guess.

Metroid: Brother from Another Mother Postmortem

So, Metroid: Other M has ginned up a fair bit of discussion and controversy. On the whole I liked it -- I probably wouldn't put it in my top five Metroid games (and how weird does that sound, "my top five Metroid games"?), but it was perfectly solid.

That said, there is plenty to gripe about -- and I'm going to throw my hat in, starting with the stuff that didn't work and how it can be fixed, and then moving along into the stuff I did like so we can end on a nice happy upbeat note.

Oh, and major spoilers follow. So, you know, stop here if you don't want to read them.

The cutscenes.

This particular aspect of the game has probably attracted more criticism than any other, and for good reason. We've gone from an essentially mute protagonist to one who constantly narrates -- badly.

How to fix: 90% of the problems with the cutscenes could be improved by cutting out the narration. Ever hear the expression "Show, don't tell"? If someone has to explain what's going on in a visual medium, you're doing it wrong. And we don't need Samus doing these "dear diary" things where she tells us what's going on inside her head -- as the Robot Devil sagely told us, "You can't have your characters just announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!"

There is one glaring exception: the one time the game doesn't overexplain the plot is the part that most needs it, the identity of the Deleter. Who the hell is he? The game doesn't tell us. Is Samus supposed to have figured it out? If so, why didn't she ever mention it in her incessant damn narration? The closest we ever get is her finding James's body last. Are we then to assume it was him? Or is it deliberately unresolved, perhaps to be revealed in a sequel? And if that's the case, why the hell isn't that set up somewhere? It's this major plot thread that just...gets dropped.

(And if it was anyone but Adam or Anthony, what's the point? Does it really matter which random Redshirt is the traitor?)

Oh, and also, guys...it's the twenty-first damn century. There is no excuse for unskippable cutscenes.

Item acquisition.

Bad for the story. First of all, Samus being told not to use any of her equipment, and just deactivating all of it, has pissed a good many fans off, and rightfully so (see "Samus is a pussy", below). But even ignoring that, the execution is utterly nonsensical -- Adam allows his men to use Ice Beams from the get-go, but won't let Samus use hers until she's spent 10 minutes in a volcano? And speaking of the volcano, she's not allowed to use the friggin' Varia Suit at first? I mean, okay, you can come up with a plot explanation for being careful with missiles and bombs (though this would, you know, require some sort of damn payoff later in the story to actually work), but what the hell possible story justification can there be for not allowing someone to use heat shielding in a fucking volcano?

There is a neat "Screw (Attack) this" moment later on where Samus loses contact with Adam (for, it is later revealed, a profoundly stupid reason), and reenables a couple of moves on her own...but there's still no damn explanation for why she doesn't just unlock her entire arsenal at that point. For God's sake, she doesn't even enable the Gravity Suit until after she's slogged through the high-gravity area.

Oh, and incidentally, guys, it's been mentioned before, but giving a cute explanation for why Samus has to give up all her equipment at the beginning of the game only works if you explain what happened to all her missiles and energy tanks. Which brings us to:

Bad for gameplay. Unlocking Samus's powers at set intervals reduces the variety of items for you to find down to three: missiles, energy tanks, and powerups that reduce your charge time.

Now, reducing charge time is neat, and I was always happy to find one of those. And energy tanks are an essential part of a Metroid game too -- I just wish Nintendo hadn't decided to crib one of the more annoying collect-y bits from the Zelda series and started splitting them up into quarters. Does anybody like hunting for Pieces of Heart? Anybody?

Of course, the vast majority of the stuff you find in walls is going to be missiles. Trouble is, missile upgrades are damn near useless this time around, as you can fully recharge your missile supply in a couple seconds at any time (except, arbitrarily, in the last fight!). I mean, yeah, it's obviously better to have 50 missiles than 10, but the missile count just isn't as significant this time around. Especially when you're incrementing it by one at a time.

How to fix: Easiest thing to do would be just to go back to resetting Samus's powerset at the beginning of the game without explanation and having her get upgrades from Chozo statues. Sure, it requires a little bit of suspension of disbelief, but you know what requires a hell of a lot more suspension of disbelief? Being forced to turn off heat shielding in a volcano. And, you know, all that other shit I just got through complaining about.

If you're really concerned about having an in-plot explanation for Samus losing her powers, set the next game after Fusion and throw together some explanation about how the Fusion Suit can't retain its upgrades over time. Easy.

And it doesn't have to be the same arsenal in every game, guys! Let's see some new equipment!

Samus is a pussy.

We've already covered Samus's subservience to Adam, but the scene that rightfully cheesed a bunch of people off is the one where she's literally transformed into a crying child when Ridley confronts her.

Guys, I see what you're going for here -- the game plays with the image of a child's cry from beginning to end. And you're trying to show Samus gets scared sometimes -- Alien, after all, never had a problem showing Ripley scared shitless.

Difference is, Ripley still got shit done. She never needed a man to swoop in and snap her out of her little-girl crying.

And of course there's the fact that Samus has killed Ridley, what, four times by this point? That doesn't necessarily mean she can't still be afraid of him -- after all, it's not going to make the giant monster who killed your parents less scary if he keeps coming back from the dead -- but she never froze up on the previous four occasions, so it seems silly for her to do so now.

How to fix: I've already covered the "don't make Samus switch her equipment off and on at some dude's whim" point. As for the Ridley scene, it's okay to show her scared, but not to have her fall to pieces and just stand there. You really want to play the "crying child" thing, okay, make it a flashback, but this whole scene, Anthony's non-sacrifice and all, would still have worked without making Samus totally helpless.

Invisible walls.

This game has the worst abuse of invisible barriers I've seen since the Nintendo 64 era. It's embarrassing. If something looks like empty space, I should be able to walk through it. If there's an object with a flat top that's lower than the maximum height of my jump, I should be able to stand on it.

How to fix: If you don't want me to be able to walk through something, put a wall there. If you don't want me to be able to stand on top of something, make it taller, or have it end in a point. It's not rocket science, guys; this is embarrassing.

Pixel hunting.

I am not a guy who usually looks at walkthroughs, but several times throughout this game I had to punch one up after spending ten minutes trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be looking at out of all the tiny objects off in the distance that are almost the same color as the background. It's utter nonsense -- that boss isn't going to attack me until I see the larva? MB's just going to stand at that window and watch me look around for five minutes and only run away once I've actually looked directly at her? -- and it completely kills the momentum of the game.

While scanning worked okay in Metroid Prime, this is fundamentally different. Prime clearly marked everything that was scannable, and let you move around while you were looking for things.

How to fix: It can't be fixed. Fucking get rid of it. The moment you think it would be a good idea to include another pixel hunt, bash your hand with a hammer. Keep doing this until you no longer think it sounds like a good idea.

Unclear objectives and inconsistent rules.

Following off the above section: I had to look up a walkthrough three times in the endgame. First, to find out what I was supposed to be looking for in Room MW. Second, to figure out how to beat the Metroid Queen -- yes, I'd figured Power Bombs, but holding down the button didn't work, you had to go into the menu and activate them. Which would be fine if that had been how it worked for every single other power, but all the rest activated automatically. You can't go changing the way powers are activated at the very end of the game.

And after that, there was one final pixel hunt. In the middle of a fight. Where you can't dodge or recharge your missiles and indeed there's not actually any indication that your goal is to look at the middle of the room instead of the guys shooting you in the face.

How to fix: You don't need to hold my hand and spell everything out for me, but make points of interest visible (at least if they're places I have to go and not, say, missile upgrades), and don't change the rules of the game at the very end.

Anyhow, enough with the complaints and on with the good stuff:

The cutscenes.

It almost feels like the cutscenes were created in order, because -- with the exception of the horrendous Ridley sequence late in the game -- they get progressively better. Adam's death is a real high point, and while Madeline spends a bit too much time on exposition, there's a real sense of tragedy and pathos to the ending. There's potential here; it gives me hope they'll get it right from the beginning in the sequel.

And you know, I didn't really think the voice acting was that bad -- I didn't think it was fantastic, but it was competent, especially given the material.

The Metroids.

I could count all the Metroids in this game on my hands. They only show up at the end of the game, and they are bitch-ass hard to kill.

This is exactly how it should be. Keep the Metroids scarce, make them scary and make them a legitimate challenge.

The high-gravity sequence.

Yeah, it was a pain in the ass to play, and Samus's refusal to activate the Gravity Suit is utterly nonsensical, but it was probably the most legitimately creative point in the game.

The escape sequence.

It's hard to take a formula and make it surprising. Super Metroid put its twist on the escape sequence by making the room tilt; Zero Mission added the Zero Suit stealth sequence, and this one puts the whole thing after the end credits. Great twist; too bad it won't be a surprise next time (and too bad a guy with a loud mouth spoiled it on my messageboard).

The return of the Zero Suit doesn't make a lick of plot sense (and neither does Adam leaving his helmet behind in the first place), but it's fun -- chalk another one up in the "I'm willing to suspend disbelief if you give me something worthwhile in exchange" column.

Speaking of which,

Three Stages of Ridley.

It's completely ridiculous, but I love it.

No drops.

It was a little odd at first, getting used to the lack of energy/missile drops, but it really fits the mechanics of this game well. Running out of missiles is a minor inconvenience, but recharging health requires a real risk -- and pays off often enough that it's not frustrating, while getting you killed often enough that the game's still a challenge.

Well-placed save points and forgiving deaths.

In general, I tend to wish the Japanese would figure out that we're not saving to batteries anymore and realize save points are anachronisms and just let me save wherever I want -- but this is the next best thing. You rarely, if ever, go 20 minutes without hitting a save point and, better still, always respawn close to where you die (eg at the beginning of a boss fight). It allows the game to be challenging without being too punishing -- especially given the aforementioned unskippable cutscenes.

The gameplay!

Saving the most obvious for last -- for all its flaws, this is a pretty fun game to play. It's nailed the atmosphere and mechanics of the series. Sure, combat's a bit more complicated, but it seldom hurts the momentum of the game. Make no mistake: this game plays like a Metroid. It's got its blemishes, but I enjoyed it, and I played it through to the end -- and, perhaps most notably, it made me want to go back and replay its spiritual predecessor (and chronological successor), Metroid Fusion.

All in all, a pretty good game. With some spit and polish, a sequel could be better yet.

Form and Function

A few weeks back, I rented Hellboy: Sword of Storms. It was a neat little movie, and adhered pretty well to the the comics' folklore vibe. The highlight was a sequence adapting Heads.

And it occurred to me, you know, the best Hellboy stories are 8-page adaptations of folk tales, in which Hellboy himself plays only a minor role. Similarly, wouldn't it be great to see some 10-minute Hellboy animated shorts?

It's a real pity that both 8-page comic stories and 10-minute animated shorts have fallen by the wayside. DC, at least, seems interested in bringing them back: they've been doing 8-page "secondary features" in some of their popular titles, and next week's animated Crisis on Two Earths will also include a 10-minute Spectre short. Which is the perfect length for a Spectre story.

And of course all this has me thinking, Why 22 pages? Why 22 minutes? Why 6-issue arcs? Stories should take all the time they need; no more and no less.

Which isn't to say that rigid parameters can't foster creativity. The BioWare Writing Contest I participated in a few years back had some very tight guidelines -- only so many characters, only one location allowed, and that location has to be a pretty tiny square. But in a way, that stimulated creativity. Sometimes, you need parameters.

Douglas Adams is a favorite example. His best Hitchhiker's Guide work was written for radio, with a rigid three-act structure and length requirement for each episode, with the requisite pacing those things entail. Those episodes were adapted as the first two books of the Trilogy. The third, Life, the Universe and Everything, was adapted from an unused Doctor Who pitch, so it was conceived around a predefined structure as well. The last two books, where Adams took a more freestyle approach, tended to flail a bit; they were adapted by Dirk Maggs for radio a few years back and, for my money, worked much better with his judicious editing.

(The awesomeness of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul does not fit my narrative as, to the best of my knowledge, it wasn't adapted from a radio or TV format. The first Dirk book was, though.)

There are plenty of writers who could benefit from tighter restrictions. Will Eisner put as much plot in a 7-page Spirit story as Brian Michael Bendis does in a 132-page Avengers arc. Sometimes I like longer, decompressed stories that spend more time on the scenery and the atmosphere. But there should still be a place for those weird little Hellboy stories.

I recently read Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Its pacing and form were noticeably different from the typical Fables books, because of its format: it was written as a graphic novel, rather than simply collecting 6 issues of a serial comic.

(A tangent on nomenclature: I absolutely despise the term graphic novel as it is commonly used, ie as a synonym for "comic book" used by people who think they're too cool for Spider-Man. However, it is a useful term when used in its original sense, ie a comic written in long form instead of being serialized in stapled, 22-page, monthly increments.)

Of course, 1001 Nights isn't a graphic novel so much as a graphic short story collection -- far from being a longform Fables story that takes its time, it's a series of stories which are shorter and tighter than a typical issue of Fables. So actually, it's more along the lines of those 8-page Hellboy stories I've been yammering about.

More in the "paced like a novel" vein would be DC's upcoming Earth One books. While it is obvious that these stories need to be published, as nobody has retold Superman's origin story in over three weeks, it's going to be interesting seeing them told with a little more breathing room, without the overwhelming, breakneck pace of Superman: Secret Origin.

I kid, but you know, the nice thing about constantly retelling Superman's origin is that now the Siegel heirs get a cut.

At any rate, once the rehashes are done, it would be quite nice to see DC tell some new stories with these characters in this format -- stories as long or as short as they need to be, at whatever pace suits the piece, without having to speed toward a cliffhanger every 22 pages.

V for Vendetta is actually a decent example -- yes, it was serialized, but its chapters don't fit into a consistent, forced length or pace. And while some of the chapters were climactic action sequences of V stabbing people a lot, others had him simply soliloquizing about anarchy.

(And funnily enough, the guy writing Earth One: Superman is J Michael Straczynski, the same guy whose The Brave and the Bold is currently the best 22-page superhero book that actually tells 22-page stories -- but whose run on Thor was decompressed, organic, and even meandering. Which is not a criticism, as I loved his Thor; it's just a statement that the man can write very well in different formats.)

If the world is a just and beautiful place, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a template for the future of television. It manages the rather neat trick of adhering to a rigid structure that also just happens to be noticeably different from the traditional structure of a TV show: three 13-minute acts, each itself featuring a beginning, a middle, an end, and four songs. It's similar to, but distinct from, the standard three-act structure and 44-minute length of an American TV show.

Even The Daily Show -- God, not a week goes by anymore but one of the interviews goes over. Which is swell, but the way this is handled online is completely boneheaded: if you go to Full Episodes on thedailyshow.com, or view an episode on Hulu, you get the broadcast episode, which shows the truncated interview, followed by an admonition to check out the website, followed by Moment of Zen and credits. I can see this as an unfortunate requirement for broadcast, but guys, Internet videos can be more than 22 minutes. Why in the hell do I have to click through to a different page on the site (or, if I'm watching from Hulu, a different site entirely) to watch the rest of the interview? It's viewer-unfriendly, especially if you use your PC as a media center hooked up to your TV. Cut the full interview into the damn episode. Add an extra commercial in the middle if you have to. (It would be swell if you didn't show the exact same commercial at every single break, but that's a separate presumably-silly-and-useless "rant".)

At least they've wised up a little and started showing just the first part of the interview in the broadcast episode and then showing the rest in the "Full Interview" link on the website. It used to be they'd show a chopped-up version of the interview in the broadcast episode, meaning that instead of the Full Interview link picking up where the show left off, it had five minutes' worth of the same content spread out across it.

You know, it seems like the youngest of the major media is also the one with the least rigid requirements for length. Video games can be anything from a three-second WarioWare microgame to a persistent world that players sink years into. People may grouse a bit that Portal or Arkham Asylum is too short, but it doesn't prevent them from being highly-regarded, bestselling titles.

Which is, of course, not to say that longer games don't have to function under tight restrictions. They're often very high-budget affairs with a hell of a lot of people involved (as Dragon Age tries to forcibly remind you with its absurdly slow credits crawl) -- programmers, writers, artists, and so on. The Mass Effect games have voiced player dialogue and let the player choose Shepard's sex, which means every single one of those lines has to be recorded twice. (And frankly that doesn't seem like enough variety -- I have a Samuel L Jackson lookalike who says "aboot".)

And those restrictions are probably why every dialogue choice in ME is broken up into a predictable paragon/neutral/renegade choice. That kind of very-unsubtle delineation is exactly the sort of thing western RPG developers have been trying to get out of (as in both The Witcher and Dragon Age), but in the context of ME it works quite well -- I've even tried my hand at writing in a three-choices, no-hubs dialogue style and it works very organically. (For the ludicrous amount of dialogue in Dragon Age, there were places I could see the seams showing -- spots where I'd have three dialogue options and, as soon as the NPC spoke, knew that all three led to that exact same response. But that's probably a lot harder to notice if you've never written a dialogue tree yourself, and it's certainly an artform in and of itself, giving a response that works equally well for three different questions. I can only think of one occasion in the dozens of hours of Dragon Age where a writer screwed up and had a question hub that began with an NPC answering a specific question in a way that didn't make any sense if the dialogue looped back.)

And of course it's the medium that allows this kind of longform storytelling. Game length is no longer restricted by the arcade environment. Which is, of course, not to say that short-play games don't get made anymore -- Street Fighter 4 is a high-budget, "hardcore gamer" example, but Nintendo's entire business is built around games a casual player can pick up and play for ten minutes at a time. Ditto every Flash game on the Web, and most games on the iPhone.

And, indeed, Internet delivery is going to liberate other media from their restrictions. Eventually, we're bound to see shows like The Daily Show just run more than 22 minutes if they have to, and, God willing, we'll see more offbeat stuff like Dr. Horrible. The Web's given us comics as diverse as Achewood, Dr. McNinja, Templar, Arizona, and FreakAngels, and cartoons from Adventure Time to Homestar Runner to Charlie the Unicorn to Gotham Girls to the complete version of Turtles Forever. It's also allowed MST3K to continue in the form of the downloadable RiffTrax and the direct-order Cinematic Titanic.

Variety is the spice of life. I love comics -- and yeah, that includes mainstream superhero comics. But I'm sick of all of them having the exact same structure. Fortunately, I think we're on the edge of an age of experimentation.

Or another damn market crash. It is an odd-numbered decade now, after all.

Video Games in the Media

To: NPR's Morning Edition

On this morning's Morning Edition, Kelly McBride expressed concern that Wii Sports would lead her children to erroneously believe they could actually play sports.

I think this is a very reasonable concern. I just got a Wii and spent a good portion of last week playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Yesterday morning I got up, put on my green tunic, grabbed my sword and shield, and went to cross the bridge at Yorkshire and the I-17. When the gateway to the Twilight Realm did not open and I failed to turn into a wolf, I was forced to come to grips with the shocking possibility that video games might not be real.

The Old Stomping Grounds

October was a busy damn month. Five couples I know -- five! -- got married. I attended three of the weddings.

The first -- technically at the tail-end of September -- involved a road trip to San Diego with Brad, Ian, and Ben to attend Jon and Gina's wedding.

Now, let me start by saying that San Diego is one of my favorite places on Earth.

And let me add that Jon and Gina are my favorite couple. Those kids are gonna do all right.

And let me finish by saying that we arrived at 3AM, picked up Jon, and took him back to our hotel room for 40's and Mario Kart. I don't drink 40's, but I'm not about to refuse the request of a groom 31 hours before his wedding.

I remember very little of the remainder of that morning, but I do remember that Jon and I totally owned at Mario Kart. Just like old times.

Then I hopped a plane back to Arizona to marry my cousin.

...As in performed the ceremony. But yes, I opened with that joke.

You know, it's been a long time since we really hung out and chatted, but the last time I saw her she was really into the whole church scene -- I didn't really expect her to invite a secular humanist to perform her wedding. But it went off pretty well -- and yeah, I quoted scripture (you know, that "love is patient" bit's pretty all right, actually), but I kept my humanist street cred by throwing some Bucky Fuller in there too ("love is metaphysical gravity," baby -- bam!).

It was also very much an Irish wedding. In that people got hammered and were told to leave by security.

The third was...rather abrupt and unexpected, but not entirely unprecedented. I did not attend because I had about a week and a half's notice, and it was the day before...

The fourth, in Sedona -- another of the most beautiful damn places in the world -- where they made us dress up in goddamn medieval attire, but also there was homebrewed beer and mead so I definitely think it was a net gain. Plus I reused my costume for Halloween, which was good because I'd been Brodie from 2001 through 2005 and I really needed something new.

Also there was a misunderstanding with my hotel reservation, because hotels.com tried to tell me that Munds Park was 15 miles away from Sedona. I can't prove anything, but I'm pretty damn sure MapQuest was to blame.

Switching gears, last weekend I went on back up to Flagstaff to see the old Rocky cast perform, and I swear that a visit to Flagstaff is just good for the soul. I stepped out of my car and at the very first breath of fresh air my life felt monumentally better.

I got me a room at the Super 8, crossed the street, and then walked the length of campus from north to south. Let's get one thing straight -- NAU is trying, hard, to be ASU Jr. There's construction everywhere you turn, the roads are FUBAR, and there's no parking anywhere. Oh, and of course the front page of the school paper is talking about another goddamn tuition hike.

The campus has changed a bit, but, contrary to what I was given to understand by Ian, the field back behind Gillenwater -- which I have waxed philosophical about on prior occasion -- is still there. He must've been talking about a different field that got paved over.

The modified engineering building is much prettier than the old one. And the new business building that used to be the anthro building is pretty damn cool.

I went to Burritos Fiesta, and ran into a friend I'd been meaning to see. The last time I saw her was sort of a downer, so repairing that breach was important to me. That worked out really well, and that alone was worth the trip.

The next day I grabbed a bite of lunch with an old classmate, and then watched The Muppet Show on DVD and went to dinner at the Beaver Street Brewery. Then I hit the old theatre on Beaver and Cherry for the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I went downstairs to greet the cast and determined that the most nonchalant position to be discovered in was on the couch in the green room, obscured by a clothing rack and with my face half-covered by my hood (medieval attire, remember). I was told I resembled a Sith Lord.

They worked me into the preshow, where I did something that they would later tell me they found a little shocking. And let me tell you, getting your old Rocky Horror cast to say, "Man, I can't believe you did that!" is one of life's richest rewards.

And then I went out to a makeshift cast party afterward, with two old friends and two new ones, drank Corona, and watched Shock Treatment. As always, Tami and I enjoyed it and nobody else did.

At 7:30 my eyes were crusting over and I could barely keep them open. I decided I could hold out no longer and went back to my motel room, grabbed a two-hour nap, showered, checked out, and went to breakfast at Martann's, which, as always on a Sunday morning, was completely packed and had only one waitress on duty. If I hadn't been craving one of their enchiladas with the fried egg on top since I'd started the trip, I wouldn't have gone, let alone stayed the hour and a half or so it took me to get and eat my food. On the plus side, as I took one of my two trips back to the car to feed the meter, I ran into two women I knew from high school. We BS'ed a bit and they told me they'd just attended a wedding of some old friends of ours. (I'm guessing about half of you have been wondering this whole time what the hell happened to the fifth wedding, and the other half are now going, Oh right! There was a fifth wedding!) They were but the first of a cavalcade of familiar faces I ran into on my way out of town.

I managed to ingest enough coffee and tea to get me home, but by the end of the trip I was just about hitting the ol' caffeine crash. I grabbed me another two-hour nap and then kicked back awhile (Ben came over to visit) and finally went back to bed.

But I tell you, it was a beautiful damn weekend and it left me in really high spirits. So high that I spent the next day blocking IP's on our mailserver, whose SMTP port was getting hammered so hard by spam attempts as to result in a goddamn DoS, and still went home feeling good.

Flagstaff's got that kind of effect on me I guess. I should probably go back soon.

But in the meantime, it's good to be back in the valley so's I can vote for Harry Mitchell. Go Harry!