>Best of 2010 – prologue

>Any day now, I’ll start working on my favorite post of the year – the 2010 Year in Games.  I’ve got spreadsheets and word documents and maybe I’ll get some powerpoint up in this business, who knows. 

The only reason why I haven’t started is because I’m waiting to play the new Donkey Kong game on the Wii – my first Gamefly copy got lost in the mail during the Thanksgiving break, and the second copy still hasn’t arrived.  Enough people have raved about it so that I feel compelled to give it at least a compulsory glance before I make my lists official.

That being said, I’m a little concerned that even if it does show up, I won’t be able to play it.  And that’s because of my carpal tunnel issues, which have started to flare up in the last few weeks.  My carpal tunnel issues caused me to regretfully send back Disney Epic Mickey after only an hour of playtime – the sudden snap-back move you have to make with your wrist during combat hurt like crazy, and there really wasn’t even all that much combat to begin with. 

And I’ve seen a few Donkey Kong commercials now that feature that same sort of wrist movement, and I must admit that I’m a little concerned that I won’t be able to play that much of it without having to wear a brace.

Oh well.  I am old, and the Wii is for kids, anyway.

In the meantime, I’m more or less over my little whiny rant about Gran Turismo 5 the other day; I will just have to come back to the events in the beginner tier when I have enough money to buy competitive cars for those particular events without screwing me over towards the cars I actually want to buy.  I think my biggest problem with GT5 is getting used to the PS3 controller; I’m so used to the way the 360 controller feels in my hands, and how the triggers feel with respect to acceleration and braking, and the PS3 controller feels alien and strange.  The actual driving in GT5 is fun as hell; it’s everything else about the package that’s ridiculous.

>feast or famine

>I can’t remember the last time I had so much good stuff to play, all at the same time.  It’s a little overwhelming, but I’m not complaining.  AT ALL.

We covered Rock Band 3 and Fable 3 on Friday; RB3 is still excellent, and F3 is maybe not as excellent but certainly absorbing.  It’s very easy to get sidetracked, which is sort of the point, and even though it feels incredibly artificial and “game-y”, it’s the sort of thing where you get used to that feeling pretty quickly, and it ceases being a concern.

I finished the first mission or two in the Red Dead Redemption Zombie DLC; man, that game continues to be awesome.  I’ve had RDR flip-flopping with Mass Effect 2 as my Game of the Year pretty much since the get-go, but RDR seems like it’s the more complete package, at this point.  Every time I fire it up I’m immediately back in the swing of things.

My Gamefly copy of Kirby’s Big Yarn finally arrived, and it’s as charming and adorable as can be.  My wife is very much into crafting, and she took a shine to the art design immediately; I’m hoping I can get her to play it.
 
Your mileage will vary depending on your predilection towards video pinball, but if you’re in any way inclined towards it, I would highly recommend FXPinball 2, which took up a number of idle hours this weekend.  For my money, it’s the best home pinball solution outside of actually owning a machine.

And I finally caved and bought Game Dev Story for my iPod Touch.  I’m generally not one for these kinds of simulation games, or really any kind of sim game, but I’d heard too much good stuff about this one to ignore, and lo and behold, it’s totally sucked me in.  VosstonVisions is about 4 years in, now, and while we’d like to get beyond ninja adventure games, we’re starting to make some money.  Highly enjoyable, and highly recommended.

>What I Played This Weekend: "Oh right, I own a Wii" edition

>I’ve said this before, but in the context of this particular post it bears repeating – there once was a time when my hunger for a Wii was all-consuming. My heart and wallet may have belonged to Microsoft, but I yearned for something more; I ached to waggle. And, most importantly, I wanted to get my wife interested in gaming – or, at least, gaming with me. She was never going to get into Halo or Portal, but at least we could play tennis or bowling for a little while.

The irony, of course, is that once the novelty of the Wii’s control scheme wore off, the crushing disappointment started to sink in. There were no games to look forward to, at least to someone in my demographic; Nintendo saw their revenue streams coming in from non-gamers and you can hardly fault them for trying to make money, especially in this shitty economy. That said, my enthusiasm for the Wii didn’t drop off as much as it entirely evaporated, and I know I’m not the only one – when people came over to my apartment for birthday parties and other such gatherings, we would always pull out Rock Band instead of Wii Sports. It is true that my wife and I had started to use the Wii again in recent months, but only as a goddamned exercise machine. This was not my beautiful game console.

So why the hell did I buy Wii Sports Resort yesterday? Why did I succumb to Nintendo’s charms, again? Why did I enable Nintendo to continue to ignore me?

I can’t really answer that without offering at least one rationalization: I didn’t actually spend any cash in order to get it. I traded in my PSP and all 7 PSP games I owned specifically so that it could be a cashless transaction. Because as disappointed as I’d been in the Wii, I was even more disappointed in the PSP, and there was even less to look forward to on that platform.

Anyway. Wii Sports Resort is what Wii Sports should’ve been. It’s yet another collection of mini-games, in both single- and multi-player configurations, and the big difference in this collection is that the Wii Remote’s new add-on makes the Remote… more sensitive? It’s hard to explain what’s different about the Motion Plus controller add-on thing until you try the frisbee mini-game. Suffice it to say, it is as close to throwing an actual frisbee as one can get. Similarly, the ping-pong mini-game is remarkable, especially in terms of how you can throw different kinds of spin on your returns. I was as big a fan of Rockstar’s Table Tennis as anyone, but I must admit that the ping-pong game in WSR is arguably more engaging.

The rest of the mini-games are pretty hit or miss. Archery is certainly interesting; the sword-fighting game is fun but not particularly deep; bowling feels pretty much identical to the previous iteration, and golf is actually much harder now that the remote is more sensitive to wrist positioning. I suspect that I’ll play this just as long as my wife remains interested, and then that’ll probably be it.

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As long as the Wii was powered up, though, I figured it would maybe be a good time to get back into Super Mario Galaxy. I had been enjoying it thoroughly at first, but got hung up after getting my 15th star or so; then I tried to go back to the earlier levels to stock up on some easy 1-ups, and found that the game (smartly?) makes that prospect a bit trickier than I’d anticipated. In any event, I got past whatever it was that had gotten me stuck before, and now I guess I’m back in it. I’m up to 21 stars now, and I’m continually impressed with each new world’s mechanics. I suppose it could be argued that if the Wii produced nothing of value except SMG, it would still be worth a purchase. It could also be argued that the first half of the previous sentence is actually, literally true.

>What I Played This Weekend: “Oh right, I own a Wii” edition

>I’ve said this before, but in the context of this particular post it bears repeating – there once was a time when my hunger for a Wii was all-consuming. My heart and wallet may have belonged to Microsoft, but I yearned for something more; I ached to waggle. And, most importantly, I wanted to get my wife interested in gaming – or, at least, gaming with me. She was never going to get into Halo or Portal, but at least we could play tennis or bowling for a little while.

The irony, of course, is that once the novelty of the Wii’s control scheme wore off, the crushing disappointment started to sink in. There were no games to look forward to, at least to someone in my demographic; Nintendo saw their revenue streams coming in from non-gamers and you can hardly fault them for trying to make money, especially in this shitty economy. That said, my enthusiasm for the Wii didn’t drop off as much as it entirely evaporated, and I know I’m not the only one – when people came over to my apartment for birthday parties and other such gatherings, we would always pull out Rock Band instead of Wii Sports. It is true that my wife and I had started to use the Wii again in recent months, but only as a goddamned exercise machine. This was not my beautiful game console.

So why the hell did I buy Wii Sports Resort yesterday? Why did I succumb to Nintendo’s charms, again? Why did I enable Nintendo to continue to ignore me?

I can’t really answer that without offering at least one rationalization: I didn’t actually spend any cash in order to get it. I traded in my PSP and all 7 PSP games I owned specifically so that it could be a cashless transaction. Because as disappointed as I’d been in the Wii, I was even more disappointed in the PSP, and there was even less to look forward to on that platform.

Anyway. Wii Sports Resort is what Wii Sports should’ve been. It’s yet another collection of mini-games, in both single- and multi-player configurations, and the big difference in this collection is that the Wii Remote’s new add-on makes the Remote… more sensitive? It’s hard to explain what’s different about the Motion Plus controller add-on thing until you try the frisbee mini-game. Suffice it to say, it is as close to throwing an actual frisbee as one can get. Similarly, the ping-pong mini-game is remarkable, especially in terms of how you can throw different kinds of spin on your returns. I was as big a fan of Rockstar’s Table Tennis as anyone, but I must admit that the ping-pong game in WSR is arguably more engaging.

The rest of the mini-games are pretty hit or miss. Archery is certainly interesting; the sword-fighting game is fun but not particularly deep; bowling feels pretty much identical to the previous iteration, and golf is actually much harder now that the remote is more sensitive to wrist positioning. I suspect that I’ll play this just as long as my wife remains interested, and then that’ll probably be it.

—————————-

As long as the Wii was powered up, though, I figured it would maybe be a good time to get back into Super Mario Galaxy. I had been enjoying it thoroughly at first, but got hung up after getting my 15th star or so; then I tried to go back to the earlier levels to stock up on some easy 1-ups, and found that the game (smartly?) makes that prospect a bit trickier than I’d anticipated. In any event, I got past whatever it was that had gotten me stuck before, and now I guess I’m back in it. I’m up to 21 stars now, and I’m continually impressed with each new world’s mechanics. I suppose it could be argued that if the Wii produced nothing of value except SMG, it would still be worth a purchase. It could also be argued that the first half of the previous sentence is actually, literally true.

>EA Sports Active and the death of Wii Fit / more Sacred 2

>It’s no secret that I’ve been incredibly disappointed with the Wii, although it’s understandable if this comes as a surprise – I almost never think about it, so I almost never talk about it. It took me almost a year after its release before I was able to get my hands on one, and then, after the initial rush of Super Mario Galaxy wore off, I hardly touched it because there really wasn’t anything that compelling to play on it. Eventually I started to accept that as a 33-year-old male hard-core gamer, I was no longer anywhere near Nintendo’s target demographic.

Except that as a 33-year-old male hard-core gamer, I’m a bit out of shape. And I knew that if I was going to get up off the couch, I was probably going to need to trick myself into doing it. So I bought Wii Fit a couple weeks ago, with my wife’s blessing, and we’ve been using it for the past month.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really ever fully convinced of Wii Fit’s ability to get me to lose weight and get in shape, and the results spoke for themselves – after 3 or 4 weeks, I hadn’t lost any weight. Frankly, it was rare if I even broke a sweat. The boxing and hula-hoop “exercises” were the only activities that seemed to raise my heart rate, but they got awfully repetitive (and the sound/music in the boxing activity is just plain awful). And the lack of structure makes it hard for someone like me to stay motivated; it’s too easy to slack.

So when the reviews started trickling in for EA Sports Active, I took notice. And this morning, I finished my first workout.

Wow.

Yes, I broke a sweat. Yes, I worked my ass off. I feel like I burned more calories during this morning’s 20-minute session than I did for the entire month I used Wii Fit. The workouts are structured, guided, varied, engaging, and – most importantly – fun. My only real complaint is with the little leg strap that you use to store the nunchuck – it kept sliding off my shorts, and eventually I had to strap it on to my bare thigh. Other than that, though, it looks to be exactly what I needed to get back in shape – I’m very happy I picked it up.

————————-

Actually had some substantial game time this weekend, for what felt like the first time in ages. Spent a short time with the InFamous PS3 demo, and I’m definitely looking forward to it; spent an even shorter amount of time with the Tiger Woods 10 demo, which doesn’t really seem all that different from the 09 iteration (with the notable exception of in-game scoring, which is a nice touch). Still, a PGA season in Tiger is a nice way to fill in idle hours during the summer.

But most of my time was spent trawling through Sacred 2. I’m now halfway between level 34 and 35; I probably should have written down my stats before writing this up, but I can at least say that I got the achievement for finishing 40% of the side quests (I think that’s the achievement that helped me break 44,000) and I’m probably pretty close to getting the Junior Cartographer achievement (see 30% of the map).

I said last time that the voice acting was horrible, and it eventually became so bad that I ended up turing the sound all the way down. This doesn’t dramatically affect gameplay, however – I’ve put in 15-20 hours by now and I couldn’t possibly tell you what’s going on or why I’m doing what I’m doing. I don’t really care, either. To paraphrase Private Joker in “Full Metal Jacket”, I’m enjoying meeting interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture… and killing them. The environments have indeed become more varied – they’re a bit obvious (swamp, desert, jungle, underground/volcano, etc.) but it still makes for a refreshing change of pace. There are weird glitches from time to time, but nothing game-breaking. The biggest bummer that’s affected my experience is the loot management – my carrying capacity is rather small, and because there’s no way to stop time in the game, it can be difficult to clear out inventory space without getting jacked by dudes.

So, again – I can’t really come right out and recommend it; compared to stuff like Mass Effect and Fallout and Oblivion, it’s not even in the same league. But it’s also kinda nice to not have to make any moral choices; it’s refreshing to simply focus on button mashing and keeping your inventory stocked with good equipment. If you can tolerate that kind of experience, you’ll probably enjoy your time with Sacred 2.

>DNF In Memoriam / A Confession

>I have a confession to make, but before I do I would like to pour out a proverbial 40 on the grave of the apparently deceased Duke Nukem Forever, if this story and others are to be believed. There’s not much that can be said that hasn’t already been said about DNF – heavy anticipation gave way to disbelief, which turned into exasperation – and this was about 8 years ago; the jokes about the development time never stopped, and yet people still cared enough to make them. We all wanted DNF to come out, really, and to have it die at this stage in the development – when prominent industry-types had actually seen it in motion and proclaimed that it looked pretty cool – well, it’s hard not to be disappointed.

I can’t even really say anymore what I was expecting out of DNF, to be honest; the FPS genre has evolved so many times since it was first announced that it was bound to feel dated anyway. But feeling dated doesn’t necessarily mean that it wouldn’t still be fun; last year’s XBLA re-release of Duke Nukem 3D was still totally awesome and it was still possible to appreciate just how far ahead of its time that game really was.

Maybe it’ll get picked up by another publisher, and maybe it will actually see the light of day; in this economy, however, it’s hard to be optomistic about a publisher willing to take on even more development cost for a product this steeped in controversy. In any event, good luck and godspeed to the 3D Realms cast and crew.

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I’m not even sure why I feel the need to confess that I purchased Wii Fit 2 weeks ago. The truth of the matter is that I’ve been feeling like a fat fuck lately, and I happened to be in a Gamestop that happened to have Wii Fit in stock, and as I was in a perfect storm of self-pity and desire for self-improvement due to a shocking, sudden death in the family, and since I had access to a car, and my wife wasn’t totally opposed to the idea, I decided to pull the trigger and go for it.

I’ve been using it for 2 weeks now; I’ve skipped a couple days due to hangovers. I do 20-30 minutes in the morning – yoga to start, some strength exercises to warm up, and then some aerobics to get the blood pumping. I’m not entirely sure I’m making any progress, though; everything is pretty low-impact. But at least it’s a start; I knew I was going to have to trick myself into getting into shape somehow, and this is certainly better than nothing.

—————-

The release calendar doldrums continues, so much so that even the shitty games in my GameFly queue are mostly unavailable. I tried Wheelman last weekend, and gave up a few hours in; the game is actually better than I was expecting, but the missions are really repetitive, ridiculous, and agonizingly long. I got stuck on a mission that still hadn’t ended after 30 minutes of driving around and fending off endless hordes of henchmen, and decided to pack it in. Last night I tried out Ninja Blade, which I rented only because I’d heard that the Achievements were pretty easy to come by; beyond that, it is exactly as dumb as I’d prepared myself for.

The next big game on my want-list is Codemaster’s upcoming driving game Fuel, but the total lack of PR up to this point makes me a little nervous…

>More Wii: telling you what you already know

>My Wii code, should you want it, is: 3993 4497 6732 5460. There are lots of things to like about the Wii, but the integration of online functionality is not one of them. I’d had my Wii for 2 or 3 days before I accidentally stumbled across my Wii code, and then couldn’t remember how I found it. I’ve added a bunch of people to my address book, but I have no way of letting them know that I’ve done so. And, more to the point, I’m not really using my Wii for online gaming anyway; Mario Kart will be a rental, eventually, once I’m done with GTA4.

Oh, GTA4. To be honest, I’m kinda looking forward to the day when I’m able to complete a blog post without talking about GTA4. That said, I’m more looking forward to tomorrow, when I can finally start playing it. Haven’t quite decided whether to wait in line tonight or to just show up when the store opens at 10. BLAH BLAH BLAH

Anyway. I’m talking about the Wii, here, now.

It’s a shame that I’m only now getting into Mario Galaxy, since I’m about to put it back down for an indefinite period of time; it’s awesome. I’m about 12 or 13 stars into it; I played last night for a few hours or so and was kicking all sorts of ass, until I decided to check out the Sweet Sweet galaxy; I very promptly lost about 5 or 6 lives, right at the end. It was my fault for doing so – the level design was tough but fair, and my deaths were absolutely my responsibility, which I can accept – I’d rather it be my fault than a shitty camera or some sort of glitch. The level design continues to impress and astound, and the controls are freakishly intuitive, considering my unfamiliarity with the controllers.

Oh well. Niko > Mario. I can’t wait to jump on the hyperbole train; and anyway, that’s my train, I own it.

>Timing is everything

>Good news: the second half of my package arrived today, and because it arrived a day late, Circuit City refunded me $38 in shipping.

More good news: Trading in Super Smash Bros. and Mario Party 8 helped me completely pay off my GTA4 preorder.

Even better news: Picked up the Wii component cables, and WOW do they make a big difference. It still doesn’t look anything like what I’ve gotten used to on the 360, but at least it looks respectable. Okami, specifically, looks 100x better. Zelda, on the other hand, still kinda looks washed out and last-gen.

There is no bad news; only bad timing. I’ve now got a pretty respectable Wii library:

  • Super Mario Galaxy (which is, indeed, wonderful – more later)
  • Super Paper Mario (which is also really good)
  • Zelda Twilight Princess (which is, well, Zelda)
  • Resident Evil 4 (which I’m not sure when I’m going to get to)
  • Okami (see RE4)
  • Wii Play (which I’m not going to get to until my wife fully recovers from foot surgery and can stand on both feet)

Sure, it’s not every AAA Wii title, but for a brand-new Wii owner it’s certainly got some legs. The problem, of course, is knowing what to commit to with so many options available. I dabbled in Paper Mario and Zelda, but I knew that as soon as Galaxy arrived, that would be my main preoccupation, and so far that seems to be the case. Galaxy is wonderfully unique and inventive, and the praise and fuss was definitely deserved.

Of course… then I saw that IGN posted the first video review of GTA4.

Fuuuuck. It looks goooooooood.

It was bad enough just wanting it without really seeing it in action; now it’s just unfair. When I was at my local Gamestop earlier today, I asked what their numbers were for GTA4 preorders, because I was tempted to wait in line for the midnight release; they said they had 400 preorders, and the Gamestop further down the street had over 1000. So I guess that’s out. I have to go to work on Tuesday anyway; I suppose I can wait until I get home from work.

So the Wii will have to waiit. And meanwhile, my new PSP is already getting neglected! I am such an idiot.

>Wii’d: the followup

>It’s always something. I’d started to track my orders from about 15 minutes after I pulled the trigger yesterday morning, and by 3 in the afternoon I’d noticed that something was screwy; my bundle was being shipped in 2 boxes, and only one box had actually been picked up from the warehouse. By 7, my Wii was en route to the shipping facility, whereas my games were in no man’s land; by 12:30 this afternoon, I’d already finished unpacking my Wii and getting it hooked up to the internet, and by 1:00 I’d finished my absurdly frustrating and confusing call with Circuit City’s customer service, who informed me that they would absolutely consider refunding my shipping charges once I finally received the package.

But obviously, I can’t leave well enough alone; of the 4 games I was waiting for (and obliged to purchase, for purposes of the bundle), only Mario Galaxy was worth caring about. So I ventured out to the local Gamestop and procured:

Zelda: Twilight Princess
Super Paper Mario
Resident Evil 4
Okami

First impressions: the Wii itself is a neat little device. Setup was surprisingly quick and painless. The controllers have a nice, appropriate weight to them – especially the remote, whose vibration is very well done. Coming from someone who’s gotten very used to XBL over the last few years, the Wii’s dashboard functionality is limited, but useful and well organized.

As for the games: before I went to Gamestop, I (of course) tried out Wii Sports, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you have a Wii. I’d already played a little bit of it last Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t really count – I was playing with my 10-year-old stepbrother, who is a Wii genius, and I was kinda drunk, and only really got about 15-20 minutes with it anyway. Today, on the other hand, left to my own devices (since Kath is laid up recovering from foot surgery), I actually broke a little bit of a sweat. Bowling was actually a lot more fun than I expected, especially since I hit around 115-120, which is what I generally bowl in real life.

I only spent between 15-30 minutes with the other 4 “real” games today; I just wanted to check them out, not wanting to commit to any in particular (especially with Galaxy supposedly on the way, and ESPECIALLY since the Wii is going to be collecting dust after Tuesday). Immediately I noticed that I’ve been spoiled rotten by my 360 and my HDTV; I’ve gotten very used to 1080p, and the Wii doesn’t even come with component cables, so everything looks like crap. I’m gonna have to get some component cables tomorrow, because JESUS CHRIST everything looks like it has a shitty watercolor filter over it – and it’s especially bad in the case of Okami, which features painting as an integral gameplay mechanic.

I also think I need to maybe reposition my sensor bar; right now it’s on top of my TV, and when I sit on my couch I feel like I’m not getting accurate readings. When I stand up, it’s fine. I don’t want to have to play Zelda standing up.

Just checked my tracking details: no new updates since 7:48pm, when it “left origin”. I’m going to assume that means that it’ll arrive tomorrow. So, then: tomorrow afternoon, I go back to Gamestop, trade in Super Smash Bros and maybe Mario Party 8, get component cables and maybe fully pay off my GTA4 pre-order.

I gotta say: it’s nice to be in this gen fully committed. It’s financially irresponsible, perhaps, but it’s also just nice to be able to fully understand what’s happening in the scene right now. I suppose I’m not totally fully committed until I get a PS3, and I’m really only getting a PS3 for the Blu-Ray, but that’s neither here nor there – I will be owning one at some point, and I can finally come out from the Xbox fanboy mentality. (Which suited me quite well, I should say – the 360 remains the best option out there right now, and I’ve yet to see anything to convince me otherwise.)

More tomorrow. (Well, today, technically speaking, as it’s now 12:18am.)

>I am a consumer whore: Vol. 2, Ep. 1

>I’ve been trying to convince my friend Max to get an Xbox360 for the last year or so; he assures me that he really does want one, but he’s trying to cut down his debt, and he’s hoping to score it during the holidays. However, he blindsided me on Monday by telling me that he managed to score a Wii, thanks to wiialerts.com.

And so, of course, I had to check out the site and see what it was all about. I’ve wanted a Wii since launch but they’ve been impossible to find, and I’ve gotten used to not having one – especially since there are really only about 5-6 games I’m interested in playing. But, as I said, I felt compelled to check out the site. 15 minutes later, I signed up and set up some alerts; 30 minutes after that, I got my first text message.

Cutting to the chase, then: this morning I got a text message – Circuit City finally had bundles available, and for a pretty reasonable price. And so…

…I got one.

The bundle itself isn’t necessarily top-notch, at least as far as the selection of games goes. I got:

  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl
  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Mario Party 8
  • Wii Play (for the extra remote)

I will most likely trade in Brawl and Party for Zelda and maybe RE4 or Okami. I’ll check ’em out, of course, but I don’t really see myself giving a shit about either of those games.

Anyway. I’m glad I’m finally getting one, although I was truly ready to forgo the Wii altogether in lieu of scoring a PS3 later this summer.

And it’s not like I’ll be playing it very much once GTA4 drops next week.

I am such a goddamned whore.

(Wii friend codes are always appreciated; I’ll post mine once I find out what it is.)