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):
May 24, 2011
Having spent so much time with Animal Crossing on the GameCube during my formative years, it’s a game I’ll always have a soft spot for. But besides just blind love for the series because of this, the games appeal to the part of my psyche that enjoys a mundane routine and the drive to complete item lists.
Animal Crossing: City Folk has been a part of my daily routine since I began playing it in March. Composing this review was tough; I could have listed off flaws and make note of the minor improvements that it has made on its predecessors, but that would only be useful for those who have played the previous games. And if you’ve played the previous games and enjoyed them, chances are, you played City Folk when it came out in 2008. And pending you didn’t like the previous Animal Crossing games, guess what? Animal Crossing: City Folk is more of the same, for better or worse.
Animal Crossing: City Folkbegins opens up the same way the previous games did. You, the player is moving into a new town to set up roots and experience life. You are broke however and this requires some help from the local storekeeper, Tom Nook. He lets you have a house in town, with the expectation that you’ll pay him back. From here, the primary objective is to pay off your house, all the while increasing its size and your debt.
From the middle of March until a week or two ago, I had played the game for at least an hour each day. I felt compelled to play, compelled to find the fossils buried around town that day, to see if any events were happening, and to just make a little more money towards my debt. Once I neared my final payments however, I really lost the motivation to get on. I’d like to check back in at the beginning of every month and holidays, but I’m not sure that’ll happen.
I could continue playing City Folk as I have these past two months, all I’d need to do is set up goals. For instance I could donate to the town fund and see what that reaps. Or I could attempt to have my town be graded as perfect. But after so much time with City Folk I’m ready for a break. And if my playtime with the previous games is any indication, I’ll be back at it just like I was from mid-March to mid-May at some point in the future.
But what is it that drew me to the game every day? At this point in the article, you, the reader would say it was paying off my debt, but that would only be true on the surface. It’s what I did to pay off my debt that kept me coming back, it was my routine.
My daily routine consisted of running errands. I’d go fossil hunting, search for the magical rock that spat out money, sell fruit and seashells, see what new items Tom Nook had for sale, water any withering flowers, talk with neighbors, fish and hunt for new insects. Rarer would be the days that I’d visit the city or play online with a friend. What drew me to City Folk every day was errand running; I had a second life that I had to attend to and it became a part of my actual routine, up there with eating breakfast and brushing my teeth.
I loved Animal Crossing: City Folk. My description of the game might make it sound boring, which it sort of is, but it’s the mundane routine I had set up that kept me coming back to the game for two months straight.
April 22, 2011
I completed The Legend of Zelda a few weeks ago. I originally purchased it something like five years ago at a garage sale along with a Nintendo Entertainment System and some other games. At that time I was beginning to realize I really liked what The Legend of Zelda games offered. I played The Legend of Zelda and probably got halfway through it but gave up. But I recently decided to compose an encyclopedia dedicated to the franchise and thought I should begin with the first installment. Besides playing through the game, I crafted graph paper maps of the overworld and each dungeon, as well as an item list, a bestiary, and a synopsis.
The Legend of Zelda has no intricacy to the story. Ganon has captured princess Zelda and wishes to rule Hyrule. Link saves Zelda’s nursemaid who tells Link of this and he decides to save Zelda by completing the Triforce of Wisdom, which Zelda broke into eight shards to prevent Ganon from getting them. Akin to the story, Hyrule itself is rather sparse. There are towns in Hyrule, occasionally caves will house merchants or some helpful elderly citizens, but that’s it. The Legend of Zeldais a lonely adventure.
That’s not to say there isn’t much life in Hyrule, to the contrary. There is a plethora of enemies throughout the kingdom, as well as in the many dungeons. There’s actually a wide variety of enemies too. Sure some are variations of other monsters, e.g. red and blue versions, but defeating all these different enemies requires many weapons and items.
So now that Link has an objective, complete the Triforce of Wisdom and save princess Zelda, and he has enemies in between him and his goal, it’s quest time proper! But what’s an adventurer without a weapon? Well Link receives a sword at the very beginning of the game, the first screen to be precise, from a helpful old man. But besides the trusty sword, there are many additional weapons throughout Hyrule that are necessary to progression.
Even though I feel Hyrule is very sparse because of the lack of towns or humans, it’s a wonderful place to adventure through. Exploring Hyrule was often very satisfying, made more so as I completed another screen of my maps. With each screen, I stumbled upon a new arrangement of enemies, the screen itself a battle puzzle, and once I finished off the remaining enemies, I’d explore my surroundings and see if anything was out of place. At some point the areas of Hyrule I could reach would force me to battle through a new dungeon, obtaining a new weapon or item, and clue, that would help me defeat more enemies, reach new places, and hopefully, set me on the path to my next destination.
Once in a dungeon, the object is to reach the boss, defeat it, and claim the shard of the Triforce. Each dungeon has a dungeon map that reveals the layout and a compass that shows where the Triforce shard is located. In most dungeons, there is a secret item that is necessary to defeating that dungeon’s boss, or a subsequent dungeon’s boss. Also located in nearly every dungeon is an old man who gives a hint as to Link’s next steps. Some of the clues were vague, but it was enjoyable deciphering them and figuring out for myself what to do next.
I found the first half of the game quite easy. The areas of Hyrule I had access to at this stage was limited, due to the items I had at the moment, so the enemies weren’t too difficult. As I got closer to completing the Triforce though, I was able to explore Hyrule more fully, and not only that, but the dungeons began growing in size and becoming much more troublesome. The enemies took more hits to defeat and there was a greater quantity of them in the later dungeons. In many of the later dungeons I’d often get stuck on one room in particular, usually because it contained a lot of enemies that would take multiple hits to defeat. The layouts were more confusing as well; instead of obvious room to room progression, there’d be more dead ends or secret paths that opened when bombing walls. That aspect didn’t bother me at all however. It would be annoying when I ran out of bombs to try and find some more, but finding secret paths made me feel like I was mapping a world unseen.
Finding paths, deciphering clues, and mapping the world in general was very appealing to me. Completing The Legend of Zelda was fun, but much of my enjoyment came from making my maps and learning Hyrule. The combat got difficult in some areas, but it was also simple and fun. At some point, mapping dungeons or the overworld would become necessary to complete the game, but doing it from the beginning adds an extra sense of accomplishment and I will always have these maps to look back on.
September 7, 2010
I’ve had fun playing Metroid Prime Pinball. It’s a strange game, and while some might say it would be better off not existing as a Metroid game, at least it’s a quality pinball game. Samus Aran’s ability to transform into a ball lends itself well to a pinball game, even though it is a shallow reason for one. The game is essentially a retelling of Metroid Prime, minus any exposition or context. All the tables are based off of the worlds from Metroid Prime and you fight the same bosses. The music as well is from Metroid Prime, although here it is slightly remixed. Unlocking new tables is confusing, unless what the manual says is correct, but I never pay attention to those things… Anyways, to unlock new tables you collect a certain amount of artifacts, like you did in Metroid Prime, and you’ll get the ability to play on new tables, which isn’t that confusing as it turns out.
The tables are simple, but fun to play, and with time easy to get good at; the same can be said for the bosses; they take time to figure out strategies, but once you do, it’s hard to lose. Having bosses, to me, seems out of place in pinball, but it’s done well here; it ties itself well to Metroid Prime, breaks up the standard goal of focusing on points, and differentiates itself from other pinball games. That said the game can get repetitive. After only a few hours, I had seen all the tables that were unlocked had to offer, and progressing seemed like it would take more luck than skill and so went my enthusiasm. I would end up dying quite early, and I would think I didn’t have enough artifacts unlocked to continue on, so I’d restart. But as I learned the tables and my grasp on my purpose became clearer, it was evident I would need equal amounts of skill and luck, as is often the case with pinball.
Artifacts come from succeeding at minigames and beating the bosses. The minigames are quite simple; the wall jump for example transports you to a separate area where you alternate the L and R buttons to wall jump, eventually reaching an artifact. Others are played on the board such as activating an enemy battle; space pirates, shriekbats, metroids and other familiar creatures will populate the board and you are tasked with defeating them all within a time limit. You’ll see all the minigames relatively soon, and then they become rote, although there being two types of tables: normal tables and boss tables, play strategies get significantly altered. The game comes with a rumble pack, and that’s pretty much that. It doesn’t seem very powerful and it makes a loud noise every time it rumbles, which can be distracting; it just doesn’t add much to the experience.
Metroid Prime Pinball piqued my interest initially because pinball games are somewhat of a rarity, as I played more I began to get burned out as it seemed like beating the game would require more effort than I cared to put in, once I got to the later tables though, I regained my ambition and trying for the ultimate goal, beating the game, became exciting again. As I do with most handheld games anymore, I played Metroid Prime Pinball in bed before falling asleep each night. I thought it offered enough fun in the relatively short bursts I played it, yet enough content to satisfy longer play sessions. It’s a competent and fun pinball game, its ties to the Metroid universe might as well be nonexistent, but it does nothing to foul the name of the series. Samus’ Morph Ball ability may be a shallow purpose to play a pinball game, but at least it’s a worthwhile pinball game.
July 17, 2010
Like many others, I hold The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in high regard. I didn’t play it when it was initially released; I received it when I preordered The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and I bet many others’ first experience with The Legend of Zelda was through this method. It was around this time that I was beginning to get into video games, and those games were a big part of it. To say I was looking forward to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess would be an understatement; I remember getting hyped about it with friends but when it came out, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I didn’t finish it then but have come back to it and experienced it all the way through and while it is all around extremely competent and fun game, I still came away somewhat disappointed. A lot of this stems from it feeling too similar to past Zelda titles.
Early on the dungeons advance similar to Ocarina of Time; forest dungeon, fire dungeon and then water dungeon, even the towns are similar; these places are designed in new ways and remain interesting to explore but it seems lazy. After this period however, the game starts to feel different and many of the later dungeons were interesting, both aesthetically and the way they played out. The items are similar as well, but I don’t fault this aspect of the game, wanting one hundred percent different items I feel would be asking too much. Many of the previous items have been slightly altered which changes up their use, both for puzzles and attacking, and there are a few totally new items that are interesting to use, however briefly. One of the things that I like about Zelda games is their mixture of puzzle solving and action and Twilight Princess didn’t disappoint.
Throughout the game is an equal need for brain and brawn. In later parts of the game, I got stumped quite a bit on puzzles and would nearly give up. Then through what must’ve been some sort of divine intervention, something would click and I would figure it out, and that provided a great sense of accomplishment. Adding to the sense of accomplishment was the element of exploration. While traveling throughout Hyrule, I came across many things that I didn’t know how to interact with at that time. So I’d have a notepad handy and take notes. Once I realized what I had to do, I’d return and get whatever it was; this sort of backtracking and tab keeping is very appealing to me. The sword fighting and action in general stays on par with past 3D Zelda titles, but there is little advancement. Perhaps my biggest complaint in regards to Twilight Princess feeling similar is its story.
For me, story is a major part of the experience, I want to follow along and see the story the developers have crafted but Twilight Princess is almost laughably similar to past games, namely Ocarina of Time. Many of the key elements I already know from playing past games, so it’s like a refresher throughout the game. There are plenty of things that separate it from past games, such as the ability to turn into a wolf when traversing the Twilight Realm, but the overarching story doesn’t seem new. That being said, the cutscenes are extremely well done and a joy to watch as they do convey a lot of information, but a lack of voice acting is a major hindrance. The characters in the game are crafted excellently, with unique personalities and an interesting look, and having voices would make them seem more fleshed out.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a great game and I had fun throughout the adventure, but I still can’t help but feel disappointed. Twilight Princess feels like a compilation of what the developers thought were the best parts of past Zelda games and this sense of familiarity turned me off. Much has been said of Japanese game design lagging behind that of western developers (that the Japanese are very conservative) and in many ways Twilight Princess is the perfect example of that.
May 20, 2010
Before picking up Picross DS, I had only heard of picross through snippets in magazines and until I played it I had no idea why it received these mentions, when there had only been one game released in the US. Once I had got it, I was instantly hooked. I’m a fan of Sudoku and crosswords and for those who have never played picross, it compares to those games favorably to those kinds of games.
Before making the transition to 3D, picross was played in a grid (5×5, 10×10 etc.) and to complete it you’d fill in boxes by the clues given to you on the outside of the rows and columns; once completed, an image is revealed. I would have been happy with more puzzles for picross but instead they went and added another dimension which changes the game dramatically, yet it still retains familiar elements that make it picross.
In Picross 3D you are now given a 3D grid, that you can rotate and “look into” to figure out the image. Each image is completed the same as it has been in the past: each row and column still has the numbers that tell you how many of those boxes you need to fill in. The controls are superb and allow you to maneuver the starting grid easily and without any confusion. The game has a great, and lengthy, tutorial explaining every aspect of the game clearly and repeatedly which will help new players learn invaluable techniques and practice using logic to complete examples puzzles.There are more than 350 puzzles, and if my experience with the game is any indication, it’ll keep anyone busy for a long time. Whenever I play, I typically do a handful at a time or pop in some music when playing for extended periods; I seem to play it every night just before bed. Once you finish with the included puzzles, you can get online to download more, for free, for what looks like will be a long time to come. Even whenever I finish everything, I foresee myself going back and starting a new profile to do it all again, the game has a good ability to allow you that opportunity; once completed, I can come back to a puzzle and not remember how to quickly solve it, or remember the image until it’s revealed.
And if you’re the type of person that likes creating in games, Picross 3D also scratches that itch. There is the ability to create your own puzzles and then share them locally or submit them for themed contests. Without a dedicated community to share with, I can’t see the creation being that much of a draw, unless you have a friend or two who are into that aspect of games.
For only $20 it’s hard not to recommend, and with the amount of puzzles included, it’ll remain in your DS for a long time, but if you’re not a fan of games like Sudoku or crosswords, check it out before running to the store, regardless I highly recommend getting Picross 3D.
March 28, 2010
New Pokemon games are out! Kind of; Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver released not too long ago and having played HeartGold a good deal, I feel experienced enough to talk about it. The games are remakes of Pokemon Gold and Silver, which happen to be my favorites in the series. I’d probably say Pokemon Red and Blue are the best since they laid the foundation, but Gold and Silver introduced a lot of things that I thought added to the formula and it was really my first chance to get sucked into the games as soon as everyone else.
You are given the choice of picking one of three Pokemon, which are creatures, like pets, that people fight with in the hopes of becoming the best and/or catching them all. Wait… if you’re reading this I’m going to assume that you know the basic story and mechanics of Pokemon games; these two areas haven’t evolved too much in the main games, and they’re still addictive. If you have tried a Pokemon game and it didn’t click with you, these games won’t convert you and if you’ve been waiting for the next hit, chances are you’ve already picked one of these up.
What I liked a lot about Gold and Silver were them bringing elements of the “real world” into the experience. They ran on a seven day schedule that allowed for special events on certain days and since it also had a 24 hour system, they could happen at specific times. Searching for Pokemon got a little trickier as the ones that seemed like a “night” Pokemon, would appear at night. I remember thinking about the games before they came out originally and was amazed that I’d have to stay up late to play them. Many elements that have been introduced since Gold and Silver have been adapted into HeartGold and SoulSilver like the online battling and online trading, as well as pretty much everything else. I’ve forgotten how the battling and trading worked out in Pokemon Diamond but so far I’ve found it to be halfway simple considering it’s a Nintendo game. I’ll finally be able to catch them all!
Unlike in Diamond, I find that I’m using the touch screen way more, in fact, I’m using it nearly exclusively. Most of the menus seem easier to use, though there are some exceptions like the PC system which I find is not quick to navigate. I love the pop-up book effect that the 3D in the game has but at this point I’m beginning to look less fondly on them not being totally 3D, or at least having the Pokemon be 3D. I could understand that they’d want to save that for the next set of games or, more likely, that having nearly five hundred Pokemon, and hundreds of moves animated and in 3D is too space consuming.
Easily the biggest addition is the Pokewalker. It’s essentially a pedometer that allows you to walk with a Pokemon to level it up and play two minigames that net you items and Pokemon. I’ve been using it ever since I got it and find it to be a fun diversion at work. You can also communicate with other players with it, but overall, it’s too simple to spend more than five or ten minutes with.
You already know if you interested in HeartGold and SoulSilver and I was on the fence since the games were announced but, deep down I knew I was going to get them simply because they’re new Pokemon games and thus far I’ve enjoyed all twenty plus hours I’ve sunk into HeartGold.
February 18, 2010
Before I dive into blogging I think an introductory post would be ideal, just so you, the reader, can get a handle on where I’m coming from when I talk about games. I thought this would be cool to do as a post rather than just stick it in the about section.
My first gaming experience was Christmas 1995. My parents bought me a Super Nintendo that came bundled with Killer Instinct. I was only six at the time and having never played a video game before, I just mashed buttons. I remember my mom being distressed about how bloody it was and wanting to sell it, even up until middle school; I also remember my uncle coming over and playing against me. I played a lot of games on the SNES and remember going to Blockbuster all the time and renting games, even searching years afterwards trying to buy the games I used to play. When I think of playing the SNES back then, these are the games I remember: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, Family Feud, Goof Troop, Killer Instinct, Kirby Super Star, Ms. Pac-Man, NBA HangTime, Space Invaders, Super Star Wars, Tetris 2 and Top Gear.
My next system was the Game Boy Pocket which I received for my birthday in 1996 of 1997. All I had for it was Black Bass Lure Fishing and I really loved the game, it probably fueled my interest in fishing. It was my only game… until Pokemon Red and Blue came out. They were all the rage at school; the games, the cards, the TV show; I had to get a copy. Around this time I also bought a Game Boy Color, which I think I bought them both in the same trip, so this must’ve been late 1998 or early 1999. Pokemon games were really the only video games I cared about at the time and it was really all I had a Game Boy for. All the Pokemon I played shaped my interest and love for RPGs and I am still a Pokemaniac, though not as much as I used to be. Of course when Gold and Silver came out I had to get one of those as well. Even now I only own seven Game Boy Color games and four of them are Pokemon games.
Moving onwards, my next system was a Nintendo 64. My parents got this for me during Christmas 1998 or 1999. I got Mario Kart 64 and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron with it as well. My sister and I played lots of Mario Kart 64 and I played lots of Rogue Squadron. During this time I still rented a lot of games from Blockbuster and I remember renting a few but I don’t remember them well. I remember my first experience with GoldenEye 007 at a cousin’s house and playing N64 games at another cousin’s house. I played soccer all the time at this point and that was my focus along with Pokemon games, but towards the end of the N64 I started to get more into games. The games I really remember playing during this period are: 1080 Snowboarding, GoldenEye 007, Mario Kart 64, Micro Machines 64 Turbo, Paper Mario, Pokemon Stadium and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.
I’m going to say the next system I got was the GameCube. My parents got it for me for Christmas 2001 along with Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. I loved Rogue Leader and was amazed by the graphics but didn’t know what a memory card was so I had to buy one a week or two later. The next game I got was Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and it’s one of my favorites on the system. Early on during this period was when I stopped renting games, I did rent a few for the GameCube but that was it. I also bought a Game Boy Advance in 2002 for Golden Sun and is just strengthened my burgeoning interest in video games. During this console cycle is when I became “hardcore” into games. I started reading gaming magazines often and browsing the internet. I’d have to say the GameCube is one of my favorite systems mostly because it’s the system I started to care about games on.
I won’t delve any deeper as this is already pretty long and it just gets more convoluted from here on out. I will mention I started to get into retro games around the GameCube era as I purchased an NES and Intellivision from garage sales as well as bought a PS2 and many other retro systems; this is really the period when I started to become a collector and an avid gamer.