Monthly Archives: April 2012

Suddenly!

I’m out of town this weekend, making this post from my phone. It’s really awkward. I just wanted to say that Munchkin (the card game) is a great way to pass the time when you’re stuck in a cabin in the woods and it’s raining. If you don’t know what Munchkin is, it’s a chaotic and silly card game that at once lampoons and homages various video game and DnD tropes and staples. It’s fun, but it also can cause deep hatred to form between players, as the game allows you numerous opportunities to completely screw over the other players. The writing and item names are pretty brilliant, and the artwork on each card is very good. I should be back on Monday for a real post.

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I want to be the very best…

I guess I’m talking about Blizzard products a lot this week, but hey, it’s been a good week so far. Today Blizzard tried to implement the highly anticipated Pet Battle system (think Pokemon mini-game, but with WoW pets) into the World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria Beta. I was hoping that I’d be able to come to you today with a good review of how it works and how much fun it is, but that goal is going to have to be put on hold.

Today, everything is broken. I’m serious. The servers have been crashing every few minutes even as I write this at 11:00 PM. Every time I even try to put out a pet, I get error messages all over. People are missing all of their pets, and you can’t battle anybody or any wild critters either.

So hopefully I’ll be able to get back to you on the Pokemon stuff later. I’m excited about it because it’s a huge world-spanning addition to the game, and I’ve always wanted something like this to be playable online. Honestly, it’s the most interesting addition to the MMO that I’ve seen in the past 7 years. I wasn’t even sure I was going to try the Mists of Pandaria expansion until I heard about it. You can call me a fan boy, but I still enjoy Pokemon every now and then, and I still like playing WoW. Hopefully this stuff will be worked out soon and I can take a look.

Diablo 3 Beta – A Quick Look

So, the Diablo 3 open Beta Weekend is over, and I am no longer able to play it (thanks for never giving me a real beta invite, Blizzard). However, I did play it almost nonstop while it was available, and so I have gathered my thoughts and impressions together in this post. Please keep in mind that the Beta only covered 1/3 of Act 1 and 13 possible levels, so this is basically only the tip of a much, much larger game.

The Classes

D3 brings only 5 classes to the table, less than D2, but each of them had their own similarities to D2 classes, with some new things thrown in. The Barbarian returns as the incredibly destructive melee hero, skilled in cutting swaths through enemies and grinding hordes of mobs to paste in seconds. He actually felt extremely overpowered in the beta, and at no point did I have trouble playing him. He’s pretty close to his D2 counterpart, but more focused on cleaving and attacking groups. The Wizard is the quintessential elemental spellcaster, with lots of AoE effects than slow and snare enemies, and is very squishy in combat. I found that the wizard was very weak in the beta, especially compared to some of the the things the other classes were doing. I imagine the class is stronger at higher levels, just like in D2.

The Demon Hunter played like any kind of archer with traps you can think of, and I wasn’t too excited about it, even though it was cool to watch. All of the DH’s moves have style. I’m hoping that’s also a class that also gets better with time, because it look like it had potential. Unfortunately, due to some server issues (lots of those this weekend, since it was a stress test), I wasn’t able to try Monk or Witch Doctor much, but I have gathered that the Monk is very much like a Paladin, and the Witch Doctor has summons, like a Necromancer. Every class has a primary stat, Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence, and it’s a very easy system to use. Also, unlike D2, each class can be either gender. Read the rest of this entry

The best memories never stand a chance

I’m going to take a bit of a break from Super Paper Mario, and try to talk about things that are fun or interesting. Today, I want to address nostalgia, and its role in both new and old games. Think of your favorite scenes from anything you’ve watched, played, or otherwise experienced. It could be a scene that was profoundly sad, or exciting, or funny, or just notable in it’s uniqueness, but whatever the reason, you remember it, and it will be in your brain forever. Everyone has these, and it’s good to have your own frame of reference. The thing is, these memories will become unfocused over time, it’s just how human brains work. We’ll keep recalling them, and each time we’ll make it seem more significant, or more essential. We tend to build up these memories, past their actual worth. It’s why I still think of the scene from Final Fantasy 7 when I want to recall a sad death, or the scene from Chrono Trigger when I want to think of a joyful reunion. Some musical tracks (like this one from EarthBound) can conjure up an entire game for me, and even the best finales don’t compare to the end of Cowboy Bebop (no, not a video game, sorry!). Read the rest of this entry

Let’s Deconstruct Super Paper Mario – Part 3

So last time, we finally got to fight the villains a bit, adventure, and get our first Pure Heart (that required effort). Mario headed back to Flipside, and we are treated to another villain interlude! Maybe this time we’ll actually learn more about their plans.

That's some serious villainy there, giving homework.

So O’Chunks is back from his pathetic failure against Mario, and is begging for forgiveness. Count Bleck, ever the forward thinker, decides that Mario is a real threat, and decides to set a trap for him at the next Pure Heart. Evidently, the prophecy that named Mario as the hero also completely lines out his entire adventure and the order in which he will gain the hearts, so if the villains manage to LOSE, they have no one to blame but themselves. Mimi is sent, apparently she has magic powers from Bleck. Again, they don’t all go gang up on Mario, but at least this time we see that Bleck and Nastasha have some business. Bleck declares that he has to go somewhere and do something (and that’s all we get), and Nastasha goes to subdue some of Bowser’s minions, who are still hanging around since the wedding. Why doesn’t she take a minute to go mind control Mario? Read the rest of this entry

Nintento, fix your online play

I meant to do a Super Paper Mario post today, but that will have to wait, because I need to take a moment to talk about something far more important.

Nintendo is horrible at allowing people to play online, and its getting ridiculous. What do I mean? I mean that it’s always a huge freaking hassle to get anything done. Whenever I want to trade or battle Pokemon, I need to connect, wait, find an opponent, wait, battle or trade very slowly, wait some more, and possibly get disconnected. Mario Kart Wii and MK7 are pretty bad too. You have to get online, look for a game, wait, see everyone’s pictures (as if you care), wait, everyone votes on a track, wait, load the track, PLAY IT, wait for everyone to finish, see new ranks, pick a new map, etc. This is stuff that needs to be streamlined. PC games figured this out over a decade ago, and Microsoft Live makes Nintendo look like a joke, and it was started back when I was in High School!

Almost every game these days has some kind of online functionality, but Nintendo keeps dropping the ball. I know they try to keep things anonymous and friendly, but not allowing any real communication (text OR voice) in pretty much any online experience seriously hamstrings any hope of cooperation. There’s tons and tons of casual WII and DS examples like Brawl, Mario Party, and Wii Sports, etc. that millions of people play every day, there’s definitely some advantages to working on this stuff. Things like requiring friend codes to even see another person online are just bad design ideas.

The reason I’m talking about this is because I tried to raise my MK7 rankings by racing a lot today, but eventually the slog got to me and quit. It wasn’t that I couldn’t win the races (I’m still low ranked with all the newbies), it’s that I spent as much time racing as I did just trying to get a game! I love Nintendo for a lot of reasons, but online play is their weakness, and in today’s market, that’s a bad thing. Nintendo, please, get your act together. Sorry for the rant, we’ll be back on track Wednesday.

Let’s Deconstruct Super Paper Mario – Part 2

So after receiving our quest and hearing from our villains, we set off through the dimensional door to go find the second Pure Heart. Every chapter of this game is divided into specific sections, with title cards like “1-1”, another reference to the original Mario games. In fact, everything about this first area should remind you of the original Mario games, because it’s a direct homage to them. Even the music is a jaunty (if disjointed) remix of the classic Mario theme.

The line between paying homage to and ripping off classic Nintendo games blurs more each day.

Upon entering this chapter, Tippi tell you that you can point the Wiimote at the screen to have her examine and describe objects and people, and even reveal hidden objects and doors.  So far, this is the only use of the motion controls, but it’s not a bad mechanic. It’s a little forced in this first chapter, maybe, because while there are several hidden doors, I’m willing to bet that there’s a lot less invisible things in later chapters. I don’t remember, but I’ll try to keep track. Read the rest of this entry

Let’s Deconstruct Super Paper Mario – Part 1

Super Paper Mario is the latest installment in the series, and is very different from the other two entries. “Wildly divergent from the formula” is an understatement, and the fanbase is divided over the quality of this game. I had a lot to say about this game when I first played it, but that was two years ago, so I need a refresher. In these deconstruction posts, I’m going to take you through the game as I play it again for the first time, and tell you what’s good, what’s bad, what’s new, and what is old. The game is divided into chapters, so I’ll try to do a chapter each post. Today is just the opening, which is exposition-heavy. Read the rest of this entry

Fission Mailed

Today I had a post talking about the intro to Super Paper Mario, and I don’t know what WordPress did, but it posted it blank and lost the draft. I have bits that I can pull back together, but I don’t have time for it today anymore, so I guess I’ll post it tomorrow. From now on, I’m never going to trust WordPress with this kind of thing. I’ll write them in Word, even if it means sometimes having weird image difficulties.

Something Completely Different

This week I’m going to take an in-depth look at Super Paper Mario, and deconstruct it while playing through it, so that I can better outline why I feel like it doesn’t fit in the Paper Mario lineup and was generally a totally unrelated game. However, today I want to link you to someone else’s article, located on the Escapist.

The article is about the ability to skip gameplay sections in games in order to get to the plot. In most games, you can already skip the plot to get to the gameplay, so I don’t think it is a bad idea. The writer, Shamus, is a blogger that I pay attention to, because he’s smart and makes good points. Anyways, I wouldn’t be able to express the idea better than him, so go ahead and take that link if you want to read something interesting. I’ll start my SPM playthrough on Wednesday.