November 28, 2011
My girlfriend and I went and saw The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 yesterday and like we did when we saw J. Edgar, we played some arcade games afterwards. Considering we see movies fairly frequently, these articles will probably turn into a routine feature. We went to a different theater this time, specifically Cinemark Tulsa and IMAX which is very large, and yet their arcade selection was about the same as the other, smaller theater we went to previously.
The arcade games were in a separate room by the entrance and a smattering of people also entered after Breaking Dawn was over. I took a quick look around and from right to left I noticed Ferrari F355 Challenge, Ms. Pac-Man, Sunset Riders, The Fast and the Furious: Super Bikes, DDRMAX 2 Dance Dance Revolution 7thMix, Silent Scope, Terminator Salvation, Time Crisis II, Virtua Cop 3, The Fast and the Furious, as well as a few pinball tables, UFO machines, and of course, a change machine. The room was packed; Cinemark had a bunch of options.
I initially gravitated towards the Ferrari 355 Challenge machine because it had a cockpit and three TV screens providing a cool first-person view from the cockpit, but it was occupied. Second in line was Sunset Riders.
I’ve heard positive things about Sunset Riders but have never played it. It’s a side-scrolling shoot ’em up set in the old west and as bounty hunters my girlfriend and I walked to the right and destroyed anyone who came between us and the wanted person at the end of the stage. The characters were really big and they were responsive, but jumping up to a higher level (balcony of a building) was hard to pull off. A few stampedes happened and we had to run on top of cattle to survive. The first one caught us off guard, but these were fun to survive. We could pick our character and depending on who we picked we used either a revolver or a shotgun; I preferred the shotgun because of the bullet spread.
Next up was DDRMAX 2 Dance Dance Revolution 7th Mix. We played three songs on easy and had a blast, although we both agreed that next time we play DDR, we’ll play on a tougher difficulty. The songs were crazy, like a group of Japanese girls picked European dance songs and sped them up, I liked it. I found myself not only hitting the pads when I was required to but dancing along to the beat to keep up with the song. We tried to play Virtua Cop 3 next but it didn’t work. Unfortunately I found this out after I inserted money.
I liked the selection of games Cinemark Tulsa and IMAX had. There was a good selection of games to play (light gun games, racing games, DDR) and a few alternatives like the pinball machines. I’d like to return with a friend and play through Sunset Riders to say I’ve played through an arcade game, but that probably won’t happen for a while.
November 27, 2011
Basically a lot of Skyward Sword for me this past week. I’ve made it to the third temple and I think a lot of stuff is about to go down. Link is chasing after Zelda who is performing some sort of ritual that I’m not totally privy to. The temples aren’t the only challenge, getting there is too. There’s a lot of enemies and puzzles that stand in Link’s way, and they’ve done a good job of keeping me occupied and entertained.
My friend and I also made progress in Juggernaut, but we still have a few more hours until we’ve completed it. Juggernaut features some of the dullest gameplay, but what’s kept my friend and I going is the fun of working together and figuring stuff out. That and some of the most surreal storylines outside of a Suda51 game.
November 25, 2011
The Legend of Zelda is probably my favorite video game series. Nearly every game in the series has a blend of exploration, combat, and puzzles that I find fulfilling. I’ve played nearly every game bearing the name so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when the newest, Skyward Sword, was released this Sunday, I was at my local GameStop as soon as they opened. I’ve played it for nearly eight hours and wanted to write about what I’ve done so far.
This time around Link is a knight in training at an academy. Rather than a princess, Zelda is a fellow student who admires Link. They live in Skyloft, which happens to rest on a floating island, in the sky. Skyloft is home to many people and there is a bazaar with a handful of shops. There are other floating islands as well and traveling to them on Link’s bird reminds me of sailing in The Wind Waker.
For the first hour and a half I learned about the world around Link and took part in the Wing Ceremony, a contest proving one’s ability as a knight. Soon after this, Link learns that he and Zelda are destined for great things. While celebrating Link’s victory, Zelda was wrapped up in a tornado and fell to the surface. I heard many rumors of the surface as no one seemed to know what was down there. With some aid from an ancient goddess that everyone worships, Link headed to the surface.
I’ve completed one temple so far and I’m at the entrance to the second. To get to the first temple I had to navigate Link through some woods which were full of enemies, and a few helpful creatures called Kikwis. There’s one aspect of the art style that really shines in colorful locations like the woods and it’s the way scenery looks from a distance. The game looks cartoony, although it’s not cel-shaded. I’ve heard others describe it as painterly and I agree. When looking at something that’s far away, objects begin to blend together and look like a blotchy watercolor painting; it’s really cool to see.
The first puzzle in the first temple stumped me for a good while. It revolved around using Link’s sword in a specific way that’s only possible with motion controls, which play a large part in the game. Skyward Sword utilizes Wii MotionPlus which makes the motion controls more accurate than would be with a normal Wiimote. Nearly every enemy I’ve run into has required me to attack them in a specific way. The combat is a lot tougher than it’s ever been before, but it’s also more fun because each enemy is a puzzle and requires me to act as though I’m swinging a sword.
What I’ve had the most fun doing so far is completing side quests and exploring. As soon as the opportunity arose, I began flying to other islands and meeting new people. I’ve met many other people besides those on Skyloft and opened up a minigame and some sidequests so far. After completing the first temple, I was able to complete some sidequests back on Skyloft and received some rewards. I’ve been finding treasures like crazy and I’ve bought a lot of upgrades, aiding me greatly.
One thing that bugs me about Skyward Sword so far is the controls for falling. I’ve had to fall for long distances many times now and I can’t quite get the hang of the controls. Other than that minor complaint I’m enjoying Skyward Sword. I really like the less realistic art style, I’m having fun fighting enemies and solving puzzles with the motion controls, I’m digging the exploration and rewards, and I’m just glad to play another Zelda game.
November 20, 2011
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword came out today and I’ve sunk a couple hours into that. It’s been all setup so far, but I’m heading to my first dungeon in my next session. There’s much more of a human element so far, but there generally is in the first settlement. The setting of a floating island reminds me of The Wind Waker, hopefully there is similar exploration. I like the art style, other have described it as painterly. One thing I’m struck by is the way things look from afar; the objects and colors meld together and create a splotchy look, like a watercolor painting.
The coasting I did leading up to Skyward Sword’s release resulted in me finding all 440 of the Riddler trophies, challenges, etc. in Batman: Arkham City. I’ll be taking a break from that now. I also played Gears of War 3′s versus mode a little bit.
I’ll be focusing on Skyward Sword for a week or two so I probably won’t have much to talk about, plus I’m coming into finals week in school so I need to focus on that too, but I will write a first impressions article about Skyward Sword once I’ve sunk more time into it and hopefully another article or two as well. Oh! My friend and I made great progress in Juggernaut last week and it’s so fucking weird. Can’t wait to play more of that.
November 17, 2011
Yesterday my girlfriend and I went to the movies and watched J. Edgar. As we were walking out I spotted a small, dark room containing about a dozen arcade games. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was two teenagers making out in a cockpit. Once I was done staring at them, we walked around and I told my girlfriend about the games. We stuck to one wall avoiding the other couple and after getting change we played a few games.
The first game we played was Cyber Troopers Virtual-On. It was developed by Sega AM3, published by Sega, and released around 1995. We picked two anime inspired mecha and fought each other until someone won two rounds. I liked that we had to sit down in a cockpit and pilot out mecha with two joysticks. In practice though we didn’t have time to figure out what the buttons did. By the time we were starting to grasp the controls, she had won. Next up was X-Men.
X-Men was developed and published by Konami in 1992. It’s a side-scrolling beat ‘em up and what I thought X-Men for the Sega Genesis was going to be. I played as Storm while she picked Wolverine; it was much easier to understand than Virtual-On. The graphics seem very detailed for when X-Men came out; our characters in particular were very large, good looking sprites. I think my joystick might’ve been messed up because I had a difficult time getting Storm to walk down. We didn’t last long but I enjoyed the minute or two we played it.
Lastly my girlfriend played Maximum Force, alone because one of the coin slots wasn’t working and it stole my change. Maximum Force is a light gun shooter developed by Mesa Logic and published by Atari Games in 1997. I didn’t find this game very attractive. The environments were poor 3D while the characters were 2D sprites. The enemies (monsters or aliens?) jumped into screen quickly and popped up all over the area, making it easy to get flustered. She lasted a while, but Maximum Force didn’t look very fun. You know what? I don’t think Maximum Force is the game she played because the descriptions of it on the internet differ from what I’ve just said.
There were plenty more arcade games but I only had three dollars worth of change and it went fast. I liked X-Men and could see myself wanting to stay and play through it, but overall it was kind of a poor experience. That doesn’t diminish my want to visit a proper arcade jam-packed with games or California Extreme, a large arcade convention, those would be fun with a friend or two. But until I do, my arcade action is limited to the movie theaters.
November 13, 2011
Didn’t focus on anything in particular last week, just coasting until The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword comes out. My friend and I played through the co-op adventure in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and that was a mixed bag. I’m not too familiar with the series but from what my friend said, the co-op adventure was a blend of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3. It consisted of five levels, each taking about half an hour so it wasn’t a major time investment. It felt tacked on though. There wasn’t much of a story so besides just gaming with my friend, I didn’t feel much incentive to play it. We also put a fair amount of time into Juggernaut.
My girlfriend and I also began playing Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles; my first impressions of it are here. What took up the brunt of my time this week was Gears of War 2. I heard from someone that it was 20x experience in the multiplayer so I decided to jump into that for a bit, and I wound up going after a few achievements. I really should be playing Gears of War 3…
That’s basically it. I’ll find something to write about this week but I’m just coasting until Skyward Sword comes out.
November 10, 2011
Coming hot off the heels of our completion of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure, my girlfriend and I have begun another GameCube game that features Game Boy Advance connectivity: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Along with Four Swords Adventure, it’s the only other game that I can think of that featured connectivity prominently and was halfway well regarded.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was developed by The Game Designers Studio (a Square Enix subsidiary) and published by Nintendo in the USA on February 9, 2004. Apparently The Game Designers Studio was set up to work around the exclusivity deal Square Enix had with Sony at the time. Square Enix’s history is very interesting, but not worth going into for this article. What is relevant is the knowledge that the release of this game and a few others around the same time represented a reunion between Square Enix and Nintendo.
So anyways… my girlfriend and I created our characters from a modest selection of classes and options and we were off. The world of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is covered in a poisonous miasma but crystals provide shelter from this miasma therefore they’re essential to surviving. Large crystals protect small villages but they lose their power over time, forcing the residents to set out in caravans each year to search for myrrh. Myrrh replenishes the protective powers of the crystals and it can be found from myrrh trees which unfortunately are located in the deepest parts of monster-filled dungeons.
When we’d enter a dungeon, we’d immediately have to set up our command list. Attack and defend were always included, but we could select from our list of items and spells what else to include, and because we were playing on Game Boy Advances, we did this on them. All we had to do to execute a command was press the A button on the GBA. We could switch our commands by pressing the L and R buttons, which were highlighted on the TV screen near our character’s information.
We’d hack and slash our way through dungeons defeating the enemies we’d encounter. Every enemy dropped an item and we found out these were essential. Food restored our health while stones allowed us to perform magic and occasionally we’d come across a stat boosting item. We found healing stones very helpful, such as stone of cure and stone of life.
The dungeons took about twenty minutes to clear, including the bosses. The bosses were many times our character’s sizes and they were very detailed, they were also tough! They had a large amount of health and dealt a lot of damage in single blows which were sometimes hard to avoid; those healing stones came into play during boss battles. During these battles we’d delegate tasks such as healing and attacking but our communication could’ve been better. Regardless, we came out on top every time.
The one aspect of the game I remember receiving the most flak for was the chalice. Because the world is covered in a poisonous miasma, we had to carry around something to protect us at all times and the chalice that collected the myrrh we sought served this purpose. The only downside of this protection was that one of us had to carry it. So every time we ran into an enemy, the person carrying the chalice would drop it, help out fighting, and then pick it back up and we’d be on our way. I could think of other ways to remain protected instead of limiting one player, but that’s what The Game Designers Studio chose to do. This isn’t the case in single player games however as there’s a Moogle companion who carries it for you. My main grievance is it wasn’t fun being the person carrying the chalice, it’s not fun being limited.
Besides the chalice limiting one player, my only other gripe with the game at the moment is the inability of the game to pause when one of us would switch to our GBA screen. Since our GBA contained our menus, changing our command list had to be done through it. This wasn’t a problem with the exception of boss battles, but I guess the workaround is to be totally prepared beforehand.
My girlfriend and I played for two hours and by the end of our session we had finished the first year. The hack and slash combat was easy to grasp although getting a three-hit combo (the max) was kind of tough to manage. Besides serving as a controller, the GBA basically hosts each player’s menus and at times, shows the brilliance of allowing each player to manage their stuff without hindering everyone else. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles still looks really good all these years later and I like the art style; I suppose it’s a reimagining of classic 2D RPGs with modern technology. One of my favorite things about the game so far has been the soundtrack. The composer utilized medieval and Renaissance instruments and it sounds unlike anything I can think of. Truth be told, it made me think of Ireland and The Hobbit. It’s a simple hack and slash game but thanks to the cooperative play and link connectivity, it’s piqued my interest and we’re going to continue playing it.
November 7, 2011
Relationships are hard work. Cooperation is a requirement. If two parties can’t work together, there is no relationship, no way to reach a desired destination. Competition has a place though and no matter the type of relationship, competition will always rear its head. While these concepts can be seen as opposites, managing them is necessary to make any relationship last. Similar to Reese’s with peanut butter and chocolate, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure blended these two concepts together and it’s what I’ll remember most about the game.
When my girlfriend and I began playing Four Swords Adventure I didn’t anticipate it would take so long to complete. Even with limited time, we saw it through and completed the game’s nine levels with plenty of healthy competition. Rather than the typical open, but linear format of most Zelda titles, Four Swords Adventure is broken into levels which are comprised of stages. Instead of accruing necessary items and then tackling a dungeon, each stage is a self-contained challenge combining puzzles and action.
Four Swords Adventure’s puzzles derived mostly from utilizing the four Links in a specific way. The puzzles weren’t very challenging, but I remember one in the final level which stumped us good. A lot of the mental work simply required us to position the four Links in a specific stance and then stand on a button or hit switches, not very tough stuff. Boss battles were interesting. The bosses represented a “greatest hits” of sorts, but some were slightly remixed to take advantage of the four Links and the use of the Game Boy Advance.
The game’s use of the GBA was clever, but ultimately its Achilles heel. Instead of controlling our Links with a GameCube controller, we had to plug in a GBA and use it. Whenever we’d enter into a building or a cave or what have you, that person’s Link would then be transferred to the GBA. This allowed each person to explore the screen and its contents individually while not hindering others. To play the game like this, it requires that each person have a GBA and link cable, which makes the game hard to recommend to those who don’t have at least some of these items already. Playing alone just requires a GameCube controller, no extra accessories. Without others though, the game doesn’t really merit a playthrough.
Princess Zelda and the six shrine maidens get captured by Shadow Link who leads Link to the Four Sword. When Link removes the Four Sword from its shrine he is split into four and the evil Vaati is released. As Link rescues the maidens and retrieves four special jewels, Ganon makes his presence known. The game took my girlfriend and me through many villages and we got a lot of back-story through NPCs and Kaepora Gaebora. As mentioned earlier, it was a lengthy game and well suited for bite sized sessions.
Link’s quest was familiar; rescue a bunch of something and overcome evil, but there wasn’t a detailed narrative to propel my girlfriend and I forward. Thankfully this driving force was replaced by the unique duality of the gameplay. It’s hard to recommend because of the requirements, but The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure is a noteworthy example of games that blend cooperative and competitive gameplay, a difficult relationship to manage.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure was released on GameCube in the USA on June 7, 2004. It was developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo.
Links (ha ha):
November 6, 2011
I played a fair deal of Batman: Arkham City last week and I finally posted my review of it. Like last week, I hardly touched Front Mission so basically done with it at the moment. I just don’t have enough time!
There are still a few more big releases slated for the remainder of the year, but the only one I’ll get right away will be The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I’ll pick it up when it releases on November 20. I am interested in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim so I might pick that up after I complete Skyward Sword.
It was fun to get caught in the new release whirlwind this year. Even though I only picked up Gears of War 3 and Arkham City, I I feel like I’ve participated in way more conversations at work and allowed myself to get caught up in the moment. There’s been so many stellar titles released this year that I want to go back and play, but there’s so little time.
Lastly, what’s up with the earthquakes in Oklahoma? I actually live a mile or two away from this place and was lucky enough to have taken a tour. I learned a good deal about earthquakes and that they do happen in Oklahoma, but the two that happened over the weekend are the first I’ve actually felt. It was so surreal.