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2:33 PM on 07.30.2008

Soul Calibur IV: An interesting observation...

Just a quick observation, but nearly everybody that I played online yesterday appeared to never have played a 3D fighter before. With one or two exceptions, most players never bothered to either A.) Block or B.) Sidestep. This just screams newb to me. I wonder if the marketing hype (star wars and such) for SC:IV is really bringing a lot more people into the genre, which is definitely not a bad thing. Anybody else experience this?   read

2:03 PM on 07.25.2008

A cast of thousands: Luigi

It all began Christmas day 1989. Gently nestled under the tree was the ultimate object of my desire, a NES Power Set. I immediately knew what it was, even under the guise of the cheerful Santa wrapping paper. I shredded those smiling Santa's with reckless abandon. Needless to say, not too many of my other toys got much attention that faithful day.

After getting dear old dad to set the beast up, I popped in the famous multi-cart and got to work. Here was the game all my 1st grade buddies had been raving about, Super Frickin' Mario Bros. I sat there and played for hours on end, memorized. Suddenly, my younger sister approached, wanting to play with me. I begrudgingly agreed. What happened next changed my life forever.

I started a two-player game, and after several minutes of playing my turn, Mario finally bit the dust in a failed pit vaulting attempt. And then suddenly the screen changed over to a reveal a little green Mario. Green was my favorite color! Cool! But wait, his name was not Mario too? I thought they were the Mario brothers? Who is this Luigi guy (I pronounced it Loo-gy until my parents corrected me), I wondered. I quickly stopped caring and my mind quickly moved back to the fact that he was green, which was way better than red. And thus little Luigi instantly became my favorite video game character.

So yes, my reasons for liking the other Italian plumber were a bit shallow at first, but my feelings for the dude grew as time trudged on. Along came Super Mario Bros 2, and my man Luigi was no longer just an alternate palette color, he was his own man. He dwarfed Mario with his lanky stature, and damn that guy could jump! His stubby legs flailing in the air looked slightly gay, but I didn't care, I was just happy he had separated himself from that loser brother of his.

Then Mario 3 hit the scene. Much to my dismay Luigi had been reverted back to his palette swapping ways. What madness was this? I was unable to control my anger and I sucked Mario into the duel game every chance I got to steal that little bitches cards and POW his fat red ass. While this helped to subdue the pain, I silently awaited the next game in the series, hoping Nintendo would do the right thing and return my Mr. Green Jeans to glory. Little did I know that I was setting myself up for a childhood of disappointment.

Super Mario World came and went, and I was excited to see Luigi with some sprites of his own. But he was still missing special jumping power and was severely downplayed in the story. Stupid Yoshi stole the limelight, and poor Luigi was relegated to the background yet again. But then some hope appeared on the horizon, a game featuring Luigi as the main player. I was excited and eagerly awaited Luigi's jump to the big time. To bad that game was Mario is Missing.

Wow, what a bad game. Not only did it fail to feature Luigi in the title yet again, but it deceived many a poor child. This was not some kick-ass platformer featuring Luigi, but a half-assed educational game with the Super Mario World sprites pasted in. Deep down I knew I had been betrayed but I still tried to love the game. But how could I when Paris looked exactly the same as New York and Italy? What utter bullshit, I didn't want to learn, I wanted to kick Koopa butt.

My dreams had been shattered and I stopped holding out hope for my little green friend. The years went on and Luigi got shafted time and time again. My childhood had passed me by, and I had almost forgotten about the lanky little plumber, when the latest issue of Nintendo Power fell into my hands. Holy shit, Nintendo was launching it's new system, the Gamecube, not with Mario but with my main man Luigi! It was too good to be true! And it was.

Stupid me for thinking Nintendo would right there past wrongs. Luigi's Mansion, while a solid game, smeared the image of Luigi. Much to my dismay, Luigi had become a giant pussy. The guy was scared of his own freakin' shadow for petes sake. How freaking lame was that. And Nintendo carried on that theme throughout their games. Even in Mario Galaxy, you had to rescue poor scared Luigi, who gets stuck in a tree among other places. I was about to turn my back on him forever when I came to startling realization. I loved Luigi just the way he was.

After much pondering I discovered that the reason why I held Luigi in such high esteem (after the initial green color thing) was the fact that he was such a tragic figure, and that was something I could truly relate to. I did a lot of good things in my life but I was never recognized as the hero either. Also, being a young videogame nerd, I too was given the shaft many a time, and like Luigi, it took forever to get my Princess Daisy (wicked corny, I know). Subconsciously I had always known this, but it took a long time to finally admit to myself that I had always wanted him to fail.

My Mr. Green Jeans has helped me through some rough days, and for me, he will always be my favorite. Keep on plumbing little guy, and I will too.   read

11:08 AM on 07.24.2008

Import Impressions - Wario Land: Shake It


So I got my hands on the Japanese version of the new Wii sidescroller, Wario Land: Shake It. I've been a big fan of the Wario Land series since its Gameboy Debut so I was very excited to try it out. However, after the abortion that was Master of Disguise, I was also a little skeptical. Well you can all relax, this game does not stink (minus Wario's fat ass which he waves around throughout the game).

The games opens with a nice looking anime sequence to introduce the story. This sets the tone for the rest of the game which has a unique cartoony style that is very well done. You almost feel like you are playing a cartoon. Almost.

While the animations are great, the colors look a little washed out on the Wii, and the game itself is only displayed in a disappointing 4:3 aspect ratio. Those gripes aside, it's nice to see Nintendo try something different for a change with the whole anime/cartoon look, I definitely dig it.

Sound wise, the game is gold. All of Wario's trademark grunts and gaffa's are accounted for in all their glory, without being overly annoying. The music is full of awesome anime-ish tunes that really help set the jovial mood of the game.

The gameplay goes back to the original hand-held Wario Land formula and adds a few things to the mix. There are 5 worlds with 4 levels each and a boss stage. You don't have to play the worlds in any particular order though, as you use the loot you acquire in the game to purchase maps which give you access to the different worlds.

Each level follows the same basic premise. Get to the end of the level, release a little fairy guy, (which in turn starts a count down timer) and exit the level before time runs out. In most levels this can be accomplished in under 5 minutes. With a relatively low difficulty level, just about anyone could cruise through the game in a few hours. Doing so, however, would make you miss ¾ of the game.

To get 100% in a stage you will need to replay it at least 2-3 times. Each level has 3 hidden treasures to discover. Some are right out in the open but others are well hidden or difficult to nab. And for you hardcore players, the game throws even more at you.

Every level has 3-5 bonus challenges to complete. The first 2 are always the same. One is a time challenge and the other is to collect a certain amount of loot. And then there are 1-3 random challenges, such as not losing any health or not touching water at all during a level. Some of these goals are downright devious. I was pleasantly surprised at the difficulty level of some these challenges, as they are truly hard in a fun way, something that reminds me of the Nintendo of yesteryear. Getting 100% in this game will be no easy feat.

This wouldn't be possible without the great level design. While each level is short and fairly linear, they are cram packed with all sorts of platforming puzzles that are sure to delight. The pure variety in each stage is also very refreshing. From swing around on ropes, to shooting out of cannons, there is a lot to do.

The controls are similar to other Wario Land games, and as such you hold the Wiimote sideways. Wario has all his standard moves, from jumping to charging to the butt stomp. Some new wiimote moves are also thrown into the mix. Most work fine but they don't really add much to the gameplay. Also, shaking enemies and gold bags for loot and health gets old really fast.

Another disappointment is the lack of power ups. Previous installments of the series had Wario wearing different hats which granted him different abilities, such as super strength or flight. These are all sadly absent. Understandingly, they probably wanted this game not to be associated with Master of Disguise so they moved away from that angle.

Language wise, this game is very import friendly. There is very little text in the game, and you can figure most things out just by context. A few of the stage challenges are hard to decipher out but I'm sure GameFaq's will have a translations guide up soon.


The Good:

-Cool Anime feel
-Classic Wario Land Gameplay
-Fun and Challenging bonus goals
-Import friendly

The Bad:

-4:3 Aspect ratio
-No power-ups
-Wiimote actions get old fast

So far I've invested about 10 hours into the game, and I can heartily recommend it. Nintendo surprised me with one, a trend I hope they continue.   read

2:09 PM on 07.22.2008

Underrated/Overrated: DK Jungle Beat - Guitar Hero 3

This column is meant to take a quick look at two different games of the past that share some sort of a common bond (genre, company, control style) and discuss how one is in need of more recognition, while the other was overly praised (hopefully followed by some interesting discussion). For this first week I'm going to look at two games that use a musical controller.

Underrated: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat


I hardly know anyone that has played this game but those who have love it. While not a musical game per say, DK: JB offered Gamecube owners a reason to dust of their bongo's (of Donkey Konga fame) and enjoy a unique platforming experience. Tap the left and right bongos to make DK run in appropriate direction, hit both simultaneously to jump, and clap to make DK clap (which has various consequences depending on the situation, including backflips, the ground-pound, vine swinging, corner hopping, and wall jumping ). Sounds simple, right? Actually it is. It's the tight control scheme that make this game so great. It sounds dumb on paper, but controlling DK with the bongos is awesome fun that you need to experience for yourself first hand.

Another great thing about DK: JB is the difficulty. While just about anyone one can easily play and beat the game, getting high scores in all the levels is ridiculously challenging, requiring you to use perfectly timed combo-stringing skills. This had me coming back for more, weeks after I had completed the game. Which brings me to the only downside of the game, it's length. One can easily breeze through the 18 kingdoms in a mere few sittings. But unless you only play games to beat them, this shouldn't be a deterrent, as it takes hours upon hours of honing your mad bongo skills to go back and gold medal every level.

Why you probably missed it

Unfortunately, DK: JB came at the end of the Gamecube's life cycle. That coupled with the fact that the Bongo controller was required to really enjoy it pretty much sentenced it to the bargain bin right from the get go. That doesn't mean you should miss it again now on the Wii though. It can be had for less than $20 on eBay (including bongos), so what are you waiting for?

Overrated: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock


Wait, don't start flaming yet, hear me out. GH3 is a good game, but a great game it is not. Many herald it as the “best music game eva!” but I strongly disagree. First lets start with the good. The game features a solid song list with a lot less of the cover song crap. Also, for the first time, online play and DLC. Hurray. However, everything else is less than innovative. The background graphics still look silly, and fail to draw you into the game (plus no character creator). The battle mode is broken. Boss fights, while cool in concept, don't play that well. The formula for the career mode is really getting stale. Also, for a game titled “Legends of Rock”, only one real legend is featured.

The game really feels like Guitar Hero 2.5, with a lot of the new features seeming half baked or rushed. Yeah it still a ton of fun at it's, but it could have been so much more and thats what truly disappointed me. Thankfully, the competition stirred with Rockband seems to be leading to good things for the series, so hopefully GH4 will return it to glory.

Why it received near universal praise:

GH2 really brought Guitar Hero into the mainstream eye, so it's no surprise that it's sequel would draw a lot of attention. Also, a lot of people had missed the GH wagon and this was their first exposure to the series so they didn't realize how little it has evolved since the first one. And then are the GH fanatics that will buy and cherish what crap you throw at them.

Side note: Imagine if they ever made a platforming game using the GH controller, how sick would that be?   read

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