KeithTheGeek 's blog
Who am I? A lover of the video game industry. I read about video games more than I play them. The various aspects and mechanics of design are what really intrigue me, and it's always fun to have a healthy debate about them.

Hey look I have a twitter now.

Favorite Game Series: Super Smash Bros, Pokemon, Kirby

Currently Playing: Pokemon Soul Silver, Animal Crossing New Leaf

Favorite Movie: Godzilla (1954)

Favorite TV Shows: Avatar, Mythbusters, Dragon Ball Z

With all of this news of people enjoying the heck out of their new-fangled screened controllers with that fancy internet connections of theirs, it’s only fair that I too got to enjoy such amazingness. So, without further ado, here’s my brand spanking new tech toy:

What? This isn’t what you were expecting? Oh. My mistake. This isn’t a Wii U at all, now is it? Well, I’ve had this Dreamcast I bought a year or two ago…just sitting here, with only one game for it. So, I did what any sensible person would do after letting it collect dust for two years- I bought stuff for it. And by “stuff” I mean that cool blue VMU (hey, those rhymed!) up there. I also got a couple of games through, erm, means.

Now that I’m armed with a VMU, and those two games, I can finally give the Dreamcast a real test run. First up, Sonic Adventure 2.

My experience with 3D Sonic games thus far has been…somewhat unpleasant. To put things into perspective, the very first 3D Sonic game I’ve played (discounting Sonic the Fighters) was Sonic 06. Yeah. I’ve also played Sonic Colors, but I wasn’t very enamored with that game. So, understandably, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, I actually like SA2! Fancy that, eh?

Okay, okay, but there’s a catch. There’s always a catch when it comes to Sonic. And that is the camera. Already I’ve inadvertently jumped off a cliff once because the camera was causing me some issues. It’s a major hindrance to deal with, but the game itself feels otherwise solid.

One of my biggest problems with recent Sonic games is that they toss Sonic through levels without much input from the player…and at speeds that are pretty hard to control. I get that speed is his shtick, but your games also have to be playable, you know? Thankfully, Sonic Adventure 2 seems to have struck up the right balance between speed and being able to PLAY the game. Knuckles also controlled fairly well, and Tails…well, Tails just kinda sucks. I’m guessing his levels may end up being my least favorite of the batch.

Something that I want to touch on before moving on is the cutscenes. Ignoring the fact that they want me to take a game where the military is chasing a hedgehog seriously, and also ignoring the infamously bad mouth flaps and animations, the voice actors…kinda suck. I remember reading a few years ago about people complaining about the 4Kids actors being used in the Sonic games, but after hearing these guys…all I have to say to that is “are you guys serious?” The 4Kids actors actually can, you know, act. Aside from maybe Sonic (who’s annoying with pretty much any actor anyways), most of the voices just make me cringe. Tails in particular is just horrible. Well, anyways…

Power Stone 2 is up next! Did I like it? In short…no, not really. I probably need to try out multiplayer before fully passing judgment, but from the time I spent adjusting to the controls and such, I feel as if it’s a tad overrated. There doesn’t seem to be too many options for attacks, and the system itself just lacks a lot of the subtle nuance from the Smash Bros. games, which Power Stone is oft compared to. I’m actually really disappointed that I didn’t like this too much. When I noticed people saying it was like 3D Smash Bros., I couldn’t wait to try it for myself. Instead, I got a slow paced, overly-simplified fighting game.

Some disappointment aside, I’m glad to finally be playing a good 3D Sonic game. And now that I have my VMU, I can look to playing some more old games in the future. When I’m through with Sonic, I will probably tackle Jet Set Radio. Fingers crossed that it deserves the hype it gets, eh? Now if you excuse me, I’m gonna go sulk over the fact that I don’t have a Wii U.

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(Sorry for how absurdly tall this image ended up being!)

If you read my blog before, you can probably tell I like Pokémon. If not, well, I like Pokémon. A lot. I decided to draw myself in the style of one of my favorite artists, Ken Sugimori, who does the majority of the concept art for the Pokémon series. I’m not that good of an artist, but I did my best to do his style!

Pokémon is probably one of the most influential series for me, period. It was the first game I could call my own, having gotten it on my 5th birthday along with a Game Boy Color. The series got me interested in sprites, art (alongside Kirby), glitches and programming, and allowed me to meet many friends. I could very well be an entirely different person had it not been for this game!

This is a fairly accurate representation of me, sans Pokéballs (unfortunately). Yes, my hair really is that fluffy at the moment. And yes, I really do need that shave. As I said above, I’m not amazing when it comes to art, but I like to doodle and I do try to improve myself whenever I draw something.

Aside from Pokémon, my other favorite franchise is Kirby, which I’ve also written about before. I don’t seek out challenging games, preferring to keep around what I feel I can play, but that doesn’t mean I like to have my hand held. When it comes to visuals, I’m a fan of creative aesthetic design over raw power. Games like Metal Gear Solid 4 look lovely, but I prefer my Epic Yarns and Raymans.

Before I get started, I want to say that this was my first time playing any of the Epic Mickey games and the first time I played any side-scrolling Mickey Mouse game. I started this demo with a clean slate, so to speak. I didn’t have any previous attachment to the series, so I was going to pass up on this one. However, when I heard Nintendo put up a demo on the eShop yesterday, I decided to give it a shot, mostly because it is a platformer, but also because of the positive buzz it has received from various places. So how did it fair? Well…

As soon as I start the demo, I am disengaged from the game. It tosses you into an introductory cutscene. Well, no biggie. A lot of games have those, right? The problem is that the cutscene lasts about five minutes. Five minutes. While the art style in the cutscene was lovely, I’m here mostly to test how the game plays. A demo shouldn’t need a cutscene you can’t skip, it should put you right into the game…especially when that cutscene moves at a snail’s pace and doesn’t even allow you the option of speeding it up (which wouldn’t affect it, seeing as it has no spoken dialogue). To recap, I’m not even playing the game yet, and it has managed to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Oy vey.

The art in the opening scene is the same style used in the first Epic Mickey.

When I finally get out of the cutscene, I’m greeted by my first look at the game in motion…right? Well, no. Not at all. You see, the game has to have another cutscene, this one taking place on the bottom screen with still images of Mickey and Jiminy Cricket and some dialogue. Oh yeah, and the artwork here is different from the first cutscene, which was disappointing (but that’s mostly nitpicking). When I finally get out of this, I get to move Mickey around some. The first thing I do is to try all of his moves, but I pressed every button and could only manage to get him to jump. I’m obviously annoyed at this point, but I press on, still wanting to give this a fair shot. I see the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and guess what? Yep, another cutscene. Oh my god. Just to be clear, I’m not exaggerating. This is honestly what I felt while playing this. Anyways…

One of the many annoyances encountered in the demo.

So I finally get to the first batch of enemies. Jiminy pops up (again) to give me some simple advice- jump on those guys! Alright, I can handle that. How difficult could jumping on enemies be? I mean, I’ve played Mario before. Except the first couple of times I was the one taking damage, not them. What’s going on? Turns out, as Mister Cricket neglected to tell me, you have to press the jump button again in order to do damage. Isn’t this unintuitive? In most platformers where jumping is your main attack, you just have to land the jump. That’s it. Ugh. I still moved on, hoping the game would get better.

I believe at this point, I got to the first painting section. This is probably the most intuitive part of the game…and also one of the worst. You see, the game is disengaging me again so I can draw on the touchscreen. It pulled me out of the game and didn’t really add anything of value to the experience. If, as a game designer, I wanted to make a platformer that incorporated the touchscreen beyond a map, item storage, HUD, or what have you, I’d probably attempt to incorporate the touchscreen more, rather than having it feel blocked off from the rest of the game. Kirby Canvas Curse and Kirby Mass Attack were built around the touchscreen, and ended up being good. Now I’m getting off topic. Back to Epic Mickey.

An example of using the touchscreen to control the game.

Eventually Jiminy would show his face once more to gleefully tell me I can shoot paint and thinner. He also did the same thing to tell me about my spin attack. Okay, well, that’s great. Now I can use those abilities. I just had to wait until the game decided to tell me I could.

Had I worked to unlock them, such as in Rayman Origins, this wouldn’t be much of an issue. However, the game just hands them to me arbitrarily, and has the nerve to take me out of the game again (aren’t you tired of me saying that?) to tell me I can use them. Let’s compare this to Kirby once more: in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, right from the first stage of the game, you have access to all of Kirby’s basic moves. The player is free to experiment if he wants. If the player doesn’t know how to do something, the game introduces the concept by a sign- for example, when there’s a big block, the game has a sign post there showing that you can shake the Wii Remote while inhaling for a super inhale. It doesn’t stop the player to tell them that hey, they can do this.

Signs are an unobtrusive way to explain how to use an attack.

Why did I bring this up? Well, at one point in the game, Epic Mickey actually has a sign like this set up! There’s one part of the level where you have to drop down some platforms, and on the castle wall is a sign that tells you the button combination needed to drop down. Wonderful. To make this clear, they were perfectly capable of doing it like Kirby, but for some asinine reason, they needed little Jiminy to tell us how.

I could probably go on about how this demo frustrated me, such as a couple of instances of Jiminy popping up to tell me the same thing twice in a row because I had to back track a bit to get an enemy to respawn, or how the game feels sluggish even without cutscenes, but at this point I’d be beating a dead horse. Even now, this has been more of a rant than a review. I just don’t think this will end up being a very good game if the demo is an honest representation of it. Perhaps if you go on beyond this introductory bit, but even then you’ll have to deal with talking to the other Disney characters trapped in the castle and needing paint or erase objects in the middle of the stage, both of which slow down the game and don’t do a good job at pulling the player in. I’ll have to pass on Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, which is a shame, because I like 2D platformers.

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Recently, I’ve noticed something odd about my gaming habits. For the past few years, I’ve replayed Pokémon Red annually. In between those sessions, I’ve replayed Pokémon LeafGreen. During this span of time, I’ve also replayed some other Pokémon games, as well as getting to enjoy HeartGold, White, and White 2 for the first time, but time and again my mind drifts back to the first Generation of Pokémon. Perhaps I should explain.

Pokémon Red Version, while not my first video game by a long shot, was the first one I could call my own. I got it on my 5th birthday along with a Game Boy Color. It was the first game to truly engross me. I still don’t know what it was, but it managed to push all of the right buttons. Tagging along with my beloved Charmander (whose final form is still my favorite Pokémon of all time), I explored the region, battling trainers and finding new, exciting faces to befriend. Even now, I love exploring the secrets in these games.

I’m 90% certain that I could out-geek anyone here when it comes to Pokémon. I studied up on glitches throughout Elementary and Middle School, taught myself how to make pixel art in the style of the games, and now eagerly anticipate any drop of news regarding new Pokémon games. I visit websites every day, from Bulbapedia to Serebii. Even as I type this, I’m listening to Pokémon music.

Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to play Pokémon all the time. Quite the opposite, given the number of games I own that I haven’t completed. However, I feel almost a compulsive need to play a Pokémon game right now. More specifically, a game featuring the Kanto region, the region featured in Red and Blue.

As I mentioned, I replay these games almost annually. Early this year, I finished a run of Red version. Right now I’m feeling the urge to play LeafGreen again, despite having an unfinished run of Crystal (still need to beat Kanto…) and my first serious attempt at a complete Pokédex in White 2 to work on. Something about Kanto draws me back to it. Hell, I know my way around the Kanto region better than I do my home state! You could probably call it nostalgia, but even so, these games have a quality to them that I feel is lacking in most games. I can’t place my finger on it, but time and again I want to go back to them. These games are as much a part of my identity as the color of my hair and the language I speak. I’m looking forward to see Oak’s words greet me at the start again.

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Whenever the topic of backwards compatibility comes up for a system such as the PS Vita or the Xbox 360, inevitably someone will ask “what’s so important about backwards compatibility?” Now, as someone who hoards their old systems (in fact, I willingly buy obsolete systems purely for novelty value), I can see where they are coming from. However, at the same time I can name 5 darn good reasons why I like to have backwards compatibility.

1. Convenience
Let’s be honest with ourselves- most people want simplicity and convenience and are willing to pay for it. If I can play Super Smash Bros. on my N64 and my Wii, but I also have many other games I like to play on my Wii, which system stays plugged in? The Wii does, of course. I can sit down and enjoy some classic Smash Bros. whenever I feel like, without fishing out the old N64.

For a portable system, convenience is even more important. Do I want to lug around my Game Boy and my 3DS? Of course not! If I can fit the Game Boy games I like to play on my 3DS’s SD card, I’d rather keep the one system on hand.

2. Some Systems Are Just Better
Yes, sometimes the newer systems simply outclass the older ones in some way or form. Going back to my Smash Bros. example, I’ve been playing its sequels with a Gamecube controller for so long that the N64 controller doesn’t feel right. Because I can play it on my Wii with a superior controller (for this series, anyways), I’d rather boot it up from my Wii rather than awkwardly fumble around with the three-pronged beast.

With portable systems, sometimes the differences are even more pronounced than a better controller. An example of a system that completely outshines its predecessors is the Game Boy Advance SP. It is slimmer, is the first Nintendo handheld with a lit-up screen, and also uses a rechargeable battery, meaning you no longer have to deal with the days of feeding your Game Boy AA batteries. The experience of play a Game Boy game on an older system doesn’t even compare to playing it on a SP.

3. It Allows Old Games to See a New Audience
I don’t have too much to say on this, but I’ll put a personal anecdote here instead. I never owned a PS1. When I first got a PS2, I was able to get some older PS1 games to play on it. Had it not been for the PS2’s backwards compatibility, I would have never known about these games or played them. They were games like Top Shop, Digimon World and some others, some of which I remember fondly.

4. It Expands the Library of New Systems
This one sort of goes hand in hand with that last point, but consider the fact that I mostly owned PS1 games instead of PS2 titles at the time. I’m not sure the reason why- maybe they were cheaper, or maybe there weren’t any PS2 games I wanted to play. Whatever the reason, they still made the system desirable to own for me. Without them, it very well could have collected dust and never used. I probably wouldn’t have played that many PS2 games then.

In addition to that, the ability to play old games is a much-welcome feature during slow release periods (which, if you’re a Nintendo guy like me, is damn near all the time). I don’t like a lack of new games to play, but what I hate even more is just not using a game system I own at all. Older games flesh out the library and keep me playing. In fact, in several cases I found an old game to be more engaging than whatever new game I happened to be playing.

5. Old Systems Die
It’s sad, but true. Many of our favorite systems get worn out and eventually bite the dust. Rather recently my brother’s beloved SNES went the way of the Dodo, rendering us unable to play some of our favorite SNES games. The ability to play old games on new systems not only benefits the new system, but it also preserves the legacy of the old system. It doesn’t just ensure new audiences can play old games; it ensures that old games can still see the light of day, even if the systems they are played on stops working.

If you’re still not convinced, then probably nothing will. Just don’t give us strange looks the next time we ask for backwards compatibility on a new system. ;D
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Check out Extra Credit's take on this first:

This is big. Like, really big. More important than video games big. This won't just affect online gaming, but all internet use. Problem is...there doesn't seem to be a solution yet. I'm not sure what we can do about it besides raise awareness.

What do you guys think? Any way to slow down or stop this from happening? Or are we going to have much more restricted internet use come 2014?