Nostaljourney is a retro gaming podcast that features an new cast every episode. Each episode is based on discussing a particular game or series, then finding people who are nostalgic for it and people who have never played it before. If need be we go so far as to donate all the necessary gaming hardware to the newcomers. We compare the experiences of the two groups to find out how well a game has really aged as well as discuss its history.
For younger community members it may be a chance to learn what gaming was like in the past. For older community members it may be a chance to discover what games are truly classic and what games are not. In general the show exists to evaluate and discuss the nature of nostalgia and for everyone in the community to get to know each other better. Because the show involves giving out free games, it only records once every couple of months.
Recent changes to the game plan will hopefully entail the show recording every 2 weeks.
Wryviews are my personal review series where I try to do things different from the norm by asking myself how well the game achieved its goal, instead of if I liked the game or not. Wryviews are a personal challenge to stay objective and identify who would enjoy a certain game, rather than complain about who wouldn't. I feel that being a good reviewer entails being able to identify each game's audience.
Gemnalysis is a series where I hunt down lesser known or neglected games and make a case for playing them despite the fact that they're older. Instead of flat out reviewing these games I look at them from the perspective of a collector and go over the game's history, and special trivia it may have.
Fatal Impact is a series of community tournaments revolving around SNK fighters; rather, it was. I happen to host the tournaments, but only once in a blue moon when I have the free time. I accept any and all callers, though I am not an entrant. Instead I am a trainer who organizes my entrants and helps to improve their game while introducing them to new and lesser appreciated fighting games.
The Fatal Impact tournaments will likely not continue until SNK releases games with better netcode. With recent promises from Atlus, King of Fighters XIII is likely to become the next big Fatal Impact game.
The King of Fighters Love Letter is a series dedicated to the storyline and history of SNK fighting games. Many people don't know anything about SNK in general, and with King of Fighters XIII on its way I'm going to bring everyone up to speed on the story in the series thus far.
Now that King of Fighters XIII has an actual release date this series may continue beyond the first story arc (Orochi Saga), but it's difficult to find solid information on the series' backstory.
Podsumaki Episode 09: Mortal Kombat Special Podsumaki is a fighting game podcast that I hosted on and organized. There was a lot of random smack talk but it was a fun show. Currently it's on hold and none of the hosts are sure if it will ever come back. Our last episode was our highlight, where we spoke with three of the best Mortal Kombat players in the US and discussed the Mortal Kombat community and the upcoming game. If you were to listen to any one episode of Podsumaki, I'd recommend it be this.
The Top Three Things "Gamers" Should Care About Less Somebody on Call of Duty: Black Ops screamed at me for not being good enough at the game, even though I wasn't on his team. Thanks to that I decided to write an article on some of the biggest problems with the gaming community, mostly their inability to care about things that actually matter.
Tainted Beauty: The Death and Rebirth of a Genre What we have here is an article revolving around the 2D fighting game genre, the path one must go through to become good at the games, and all the obstacles in the way of this that I feel eventually led to the temporary death of the genre prior to the release of games like Street Fighter IV and BlazBlue.
Wry Guides: Goozex Training Manual Wry Guides are a series where I try to educate the people of the community by writing about something that I in particular know a lot about. More than anything else though, it's just me unleashing a bad pun upon the world.
Top 11 Dreamcast Games You Probably Didn't Play In this article I recap my experience as a guy who loved the Dreamcast, because he grew up with it as one of his primary forms of entertainment. The games listed aren't the popular and trendy choices so much as the lesser played B-list and C-list games that only true Dreamcast veterans touched.
Hey, I liked it: Mega Man VII Hey, I liked it was a series where I reflected on games that I'm fond of that weren't appreciated by many people. As opposed to Wryviews which are meant to be impartial, this was a much more personal series. This series might continue some day but I could really not think of a bigger black sheep game than Mega Man VII.
Wry's Dreamcast Homebrew Guide: Pre-Brewed There was a time when I was extremely, extremely into my Dreamcast. I didn't just play tons of regular games that I found on sale, I also researched the wealth of bootleg Dreamcast programs. These days I'm a collector and I'm not concerned with unofficial software. I'm too busy playing games I actually own. Still I created a quick guide to some of the easiest and best programs available for the Dreamcast that can be used with no hassle.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a game that MAY have been snubbed by fans. It's hard to tell since nobody ever talks about it. Most people I speak to only know that in Spirit Tracks you drive a train, which sounds a little silly if you consider that Zelda is a traditional fantasy series. The previous Zelda game on the DS generated some negative buzz so my guess is quite a few gamers did not even bother trying Spirit Tracks.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass introduced the concept of making a Zelda game's controls 100% touch operated, which upset a number of purists. Phantom Hourglass' relative lack of challenge compared to other Zelda games only made it worse. The game became the subject of much bickering and nitpicking, partially because it gave the impression of being "casual." Many seemed to feel that Phantom Hourglass somehow betrayed the Zelda series and dumbed it down. I thus find it a little amusing that The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks tried to make some compromises for the fans yet nobody seems to know about them.
If you're a purist who disliked Phantom Hourglass I think you should at least consider playing Spirit Tracks. While I have my complaints about the game it's got some really great things to offer. Before we begin keep in mind that I'm not one of the people who disliked Phantom Hourglass. It's one of my favorite Zelda games just below known classics such as A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. You're free to take what I say with a pinch of salt.
The story of Spirit Tracks is very simple and the next few paragraphs describing the plot and structure of the game are going to feel very familiar to Zelda fans: Your character (Link) is a train conductor turned hero who needs to help Princess Zelda stop a demon who will destroy the world. You accomplish this by visiting various dungeons that hold the power to lock the demon away. The basic formula of the game is that you need to solve puzzles inside a place called the Spirit Tower to restore some of the world's Spirit Tracks, which are basically just train tracks. Your train travel on those spirit tracks to a new part of the world where a temple is hidden. After some more puzzle solving, obtaining a new weapon, and fighting a boss in the temple you unlock a new part of the Spirit Tower. Once you're back at the Spirit Tower everything loops around and starts up again. There will be people wary of this idea because Phantom Hourglass had a similar formula. The main difference here is that you do not need to repeat any section of the Spirit Tower.
Terrible pun aside the experience is very much so on rails. The game will guide you from beginning to end with relatively little chance of getting lost or sidetracked. Spirit Tracks has a very direct attitude, perhaps because the game is aware that all of the best bits are in the dungeons. With that we've established the basic framework of the game that most Zelda fans are familiar with. Now we get to talk about some of the more interesting bits.
Something needs to be said right off the bat about this game: If you're one of the people who believes The Legend of Zelda is all about its great stories and narrative, run away. Spirit Tricks is a living, breathing gimmick of a game. Everything is about trains. Link drives a train, your arch nemesis drives a train, and there is even an ancient race of people known as the Lokomos (who look like trains.) It makes a little bit of sense when you consider that Japan is a country that's pretty fond of trains but there is one word to describe Spirit Track's story: Silly. Hopefully you have a sense of humor. This is one of those games where the villains want to destroy the world just because. The bad guy is evil, because he's a demon. That's all. Story aside, Spirit Tracks has two major selling points: Solid touch screen controls mixed with well designed and fairly challenging dungeons, and the inclusion of Princess Zelda as a playable character.
The touch screen controls from the last game remain and they're just as good as they ever were, but there's some game mechanics that are a little hard to get a handle on. Spirit Tracks' main addition to the Zelda series is the fact that Zelda's basically dead and follows your character around as a ghost. When you're in the Spirit Tower she's able to possess walking suits of armor, which can you direct by drawing paths on the touch screen. In this case Zelda is actually the tough one. She can walk through spikes, swim in lava, and is impossible to kill. Adding a second character to the mix pretty much completely changes things. The Spirit Tower dungeons are approached in an entirely different manner than the rest of the game's dungeons. Zelda can get Link into certain areas he couldn't access on his own, but Link can't leave Zelda behind for very long. You need to constantly figure out solutions so that both characters can advance. There's four different types of armor for Zelda to use too, each with their own unique ability.
Things get very complicated by the end of the Spirit Tower when Link has all seven of his items and Zelda has all four of her armors. I found these cooperative dungeons to be one of the most interesting ideas I've seen in a long time. They're something that would only really work on a touch screen. but switching between Zelda and Link quickly is difficult. The shortcut buttons assigned to the D-Pad do make things easier but on the few occasions where you need to use Zelda during a boss battle it can be tough either way. Some people will definitely be infuriated because they never found out about the shortcut buttons. In the game's defense: Even if it's hard to use Zelda sometimes it's always interesting.
Spirit Tracks really is all about the inclusion of Princess Zelda. She livens up the game. She's a nicer companion that what you usually get in the Zelda series, and it kind of makes sense to give the title character a little more focus. Even when she's wearing her big suit of armor she moves around in a girlish manner that's comical and fits the tone of the game. As interesting as Zelda is though she's only used for roughly a third of the game. The touch screen controls, the visual style, and the overall structure of the game feels lifted right out of Phantom Hourglass. Even driving around your train and shooting enemies while you travel will feel pretty familiar. There aren't a great deal of new items either. Drawing a path for your boomerang and pulling back on the screen to shoot your bow and arrow are still great but several of the items work exactly as they did in the last game.
Spirit Tracks is by no means an actual rehash, but every once in a while I see something brilliant in this game that makes me wish they had relied less on the framework that Phantom Hourglass had set before it. The Zelda segments in the Spirit Tower are a wellspring of potential and a couple of the new weapons have convinced me that the touch screen is capable of producing new ideas. My favorite weapon is easily a magic wand that let you harden sand and turn it into a pillar. You could pull your stylus over a pit of sand and watch a bridge just form in front of your character. It felt just a little bit magical and there were plenty of puzzles that put it to use in different ways, especially once you returned to the Spirit Tower with Zelda. Some of them were pretty tough puzzles too. Spirit Tracks really doesn't hold your hand very much. It's not the hardest Zelda game ever but definitely makes you wear your thinking cap more than Phantom Hourglass ever did.
Despite the flashes of brilliance I don't think Spirit Tracks is entirely well thought compared to some other Zelda games. Probably my biggest beef with this game is the way it approaches side quests. Simply put the sidequests feel tacked on, and to me personally the Zelda series has always been about exploring the game's world and finding all the items. To me the dungeons, puzzles, and fighting are secondary to simple exploration. Hidden activities and mini-games scattered through the world are supposed to help keep all of that interesting, because wandering would feel aimless without things to do. The problem is that a huge portion of the game's sidequests are all kind of the same: Drive a passenger or cargo from one town to the other.
You won't really start discovering these sidequests unless you begin to backtrack in the game. I was probably about halfway done with the game before I decided I wanted to take a break--which is a good sign in itself--and I had to deliberately backtrack through the game to start finding the quests. The basic idea is that you talk to somebody in a town you've already been to and they'll say something like "I wish I had some ice," or "I wish I lived somewhere warm." To my knowledge nobody will do this unless you go back to somewhere you don't really need to be anymore. After that you'll escort them where they want to go, or go fetch whatever is they want.
That's quite honestly what more than half of the sidequests equate to. Driving the train is good fun, don't get me wrong, but doing the same thing over and over gets old. A point in this game's favor is that Spirit Tracks is very direct. People who hated wandering the open seas in the last game will probably consider the lack of distractions a godsend. You'll be guided directly to all of the game's dungeons, which really are the selling point of this game. The sidequests are very clearly there only there for the sake of being there, just in case you get tired of the main game and start wandering. That much I don't see any real problem with even if it's not how I'd prefer things, but the quests probably wouldn't have felt so tacked on if it weren't for the fact that they're all very similar.
One last bit of nitpicking before we finish up. My least favorite weapon in the game is definitely The Spirit Flute. This is an item that you're told is a royal artifact crucial to your success, which when played can change the world around you. Anybody familiar with this Zelda will figure out the Spirit Flute is inspired by the Ocarina of Time. Simply put the Spirit Flute just doesn't DO much compared to its inspiration. The Ocarina of Time could make rain, turn day into night, summon a horse, provide you with hints, and even teleport you to all the dungeons in the game. The Spirit Flute can make a bird fly close to you and restore your health in a dungeon. It just doesn't compare. The Spirit Flute's really not all that useful and it's mainly there because you need to play a rhythm mini-game to unlock the game's temples. The only thing I can really say I like about the flute is that the game's main theme song is extremely catchy.
Maybe you'll understand my agitation more when you consider that Zelda fans have already seen a much more useful item that works the same way. Maybe you'll understand more after hearing that I've already described half of the game's new weapons to you in this review. There's only 2 other items in the game that weren't in Phantom Hourglass, though they're good ones.
Spirit Tracks doesn't really offer a whole lot of new ideas compared to The Phantom Hourglass, but it's honestly a good game. If you can get over the lackluster sidequests and just appreciate the game for its main quest and silly story there's some great stuff in here. Even if a lot of the weapons and items aren't new, they're used extremely well in the new dungeons and especially so in the boss battles. The bow and arrow feels new for just a little while as you're riding mine carts around a giant monster and shooting it in the back. The train theme does have a certain charm to it if you can just laugh once in a while, and making Princess Zelda an actual part of the game is a nice change of pace. For me personally Spirit Tracks' new ideas outweigh any problems I have with it. It's not a game I'm in love with since I don't think it's a well rounded package, but I'd still recommend it to Zelda fans because it does have its strengths.
To note I'm tired of dealing with numbered scores and how to justify them. This game gets a thumbs up.