In a bit of news that is unlikely to interest anyone but myself (but I like telling you about this stuff regardless), last Monday Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced her abdication from the throne as per next April.
Beatrix addressing the nation last Monday
On April 30th, ďKoninginnedagĒ (ďQueenís DayĒ), she will hand over her royal duties to the current crown prince Willem-Alexander, who will become the first king of the Netherlands in over 120 years. (The husband of the queen is called a ďprinceĒ, assumedly to emphasize that the queen is the monarch rather than her husband). His wife MŠxima, who won the hearts of the Dutch people at an extraordinary rate back in 2001 (it was the smile), will become queen but will not have any official duties like Beatrix had. Their first-born daughter, princess Catharina-Amalia, will become crown princess. Finally, as of next year Queenís Day will be redated and redubbed ďKingís DayĒ.
Itís a strange thing to see Beatrix go. See has been on the throne for exactly 33 years when her abdication date comes around, so she has literally longer been queen than I have been alive. Since we are a constitutional monarchy, the queen holds little political power (note that I say ďlittleĒ, not ďnoĒ, she does do a few important things), but to me she is a symbol, and a valuable one at that. She has been there for us through good times and bad, has always had a good head on her shoulders and unites us in a way that a President could never hope to match. Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau is the Netherlands. Sheís the Dutch people and the Dutch culture. Sheís all of us.
Fortunately, she chose the best possible date to abdicate. Today was her 75th birthday, and on top of that 2013 marks the 200-year anniversary of the Netherlands becoming a kingdom after gaining our independence from Napoleonís France. Finally, I have all the faith that our new king will perform his duties, both political and symbolic, admirably. So to close this topic off Iím going to say a line that I donít believe any of you have ever heard said legitimately. Youíll have heard it in fantasy movies or video games, and perhaps you have said it ironically to your boss or your parents at one point or another. But Iím going to say it now in all seriousness:
Long live the king.
Okay, so itís not actually anywhere near this awesome.
With that little tidbit of news out of the way: video games. The past week Iíve been spending lots of time with my WiiU, and weíre quickly becoming the best of friends. Whereas last week my options were limited to demos and Nintendo Land, now Iíve been able to play some actual games, which is good. To be fair though, those demos were all fantastic and Nintendo Land is surprisingly fun in short bursts.
The two games I got with my WiiU are New Super Mario Bros. U and Darksiders II, both of which Iíve been playing quite a lot of. What I find most interesting about these games is the different ways they make me feel about the GamePad. Both can be played off-TV, but Iíve found that it doesnít really work for Darksiders. And yet I actually prefer playing Mario on the controller, because youíre much closer to the action and can judge jumps more accurately. Which, to my surprise, you actually need. Itís not the most difficult game Iíve ever seen, but it still offers a decent challenge, and having the game in your hands actually gives you a nice little advantage. Props to Nintendo for that. Thereís some clever level design in here too, as well as nice new powerups, and it says something about the strengths of WiiU that, in a sense, theyíre best experienced on the controller.
Thomas knows what heís talking about
Darksiders on the controller doesnít work as well, I find. Itís a more mature game, and much more epic in scale, and I donít feel that translates very well to the GamePad. You do lose out a little bit of you canít play this on a TV. Luckily, I donít share my TV with anyone, so playing it on the GamePad was more of an experiment than anything in the first place. I do like that it gives you the option to keep it simple. You can opt to have some of the more important menus on the GamePad, and honestly thatís all I need, although I do wish you could turn off the on-screen minimap. For some reason thatís still there despite the fact that you have the option of having the map on the controller; not sure what thatís about.
Other than that Iíve been really enjoying the game. Deathís a nice character, thereís good exploration (to the point that from the get-go I could already reach an optional boss I had no chance of beating yet; havenít seen that since Xenoblade), the item system is a neat little addition to the formula and the combat is at the very least decent. As far as graphics go, my roommate tells me that itís not all that, but I honestly wouldnít know, because ďgraphicsĒ do little for me. The gameís got good character design and art direction, and I donít give a shit about anything else. It couldíve run on Gamecube and I wouldíve been fine with it. But for what itís worth, the game does look good to me. Finally, so far Iím getting the sneaking suspicion that Darksiders II wonít feature the angels and stuff, which would be a huge shame because I loved them in the original. Hopefully Iím wrong and theyíll show up later somehow. At least I hope to see other characters than the Makers, because all the cool races and characters and the design on these guys is definitely where the Darksiders IP shines.
Pictured: Character design. But mostly boobs.
So thatís it for my time with the WiiU. My belief that itís a very solid console stands more than ever. Right now Iím still considering buying a few more games, either retail or smaller downloadable games on the eShop: mostly, Iím thinking about Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed, ZombiU, Mighty Switch Force and Trine 2: Directorís Cut. Iím especially surprised by how much I like the Sonic demo. SEGA characters have never been my bread and butter, but the racing actually feels much more fun to me than Mario Kart has in a long time. I think itís really the emphasis on actual racing, rather than hoping that you get lucky with items, that serves to make this game much more fun than I thought itíd be. The fact that you get to play as Vyse and Wreck-it Ralph may very well be the final nudge I need for the purchase (although what the hell is up with including Danica Patrick? Oh. Right. Well never mind then). If anyoneís got opinions on this game, by all means share them, because Iím still a little on the fence. The same goes for the other titles, actually. Shoot!
No matter what the experience was or which game or genre left that strong first impression, such experiences have the potential to open our eyes to the rich history of a series or genre. With any luck, we might find even more to love or something better. A great first experience with RPGs could lead to an undying love affair.
Sometimes a first kiss can be so impactful that the game gets placed on a pedestal and enshrined as a gold standard, which has its own pros and cons. I mean, it is nice to have a basis for comparison, but some folks take it too far. There are people who loved Half-Life, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or Final Fantasy VII so much that nothing after them really got a fair shake.
So first impressions matter -- they can shape and inform our gaming habits. I grew up on arcades, Nintendo, handhelds, and eventually into RPGs, so much of what I play will be influenced by how I acquired my tastes. I probably like Overwatch a ton because it has a passion for RPG roles, but contextualizes them closer to older shooters focused on objectives more than gear builds and grinding out perks for better killstreaks.
So for this month's Bloggers Wanted, we'd like you head over to the community blogs write about your first kiss, the games that positively influenced you or maybe biased you a little too much for a time. What turned you on to a series or genre? Was it love at first sight? Did it set any expectations in stone or possibly lead you to something better?
Whatever the case might be, remember to use the title "First kiss" and place "Bloggers Wanted" in the tags!
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