Monday, December 17, 2012

The Pendulum Swing -- Thoughts on the Wii U (Part #2)

Hey folks! Long time no see!!! I hope all is well!!! Ok, so now that I'm done with the Fall semester of college courses, I've got a boatload of free time to make new posts!!! Ok, you got me, I'm working the holiday season so I won't be able to type as regularly as I could but nonetheless, I'm keeping this blog running till the day I croak, I'll post whatever I can, even if it's not finished, and I'll be sure fix it later.

The Gamer's Itch

So, with the Wii U now out (it officially launched in the United States on November 18, 2012) there has been a lot of buzz about the console. However, there have been some stern criticisms as well. As for myself, I've been selling many of my old Wii and Nintendo DS games that I no longer play frequently. I may provide a list of what I've sold and the amount I received from Gamestop on a later date. It's a pittance compared to what I paid for them initially, even though I tend to take pretty good care of the cartridge cases, manuals, and CD-ROMs. Nonetheless, everyone gets a fraction of what they paid for. It's most unfortunate, but it's better than nothing I suppose...Thus far I have $107.15 saved towards my next console.

The reason I say "next console" is because I'm still fearful that the Wii U is severely under-powered compared to the upcoming next-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft. I'm feeling the pressure from my brothers-in-arms on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for the Wii because I play with a ragtag group of British players online. The guys are like a second family to me and I've added many of them on Facebook and we generally have a good time playing the game. Unfortunately, the game lobbies are plagued with hackers and glitch-abusing people that do not play honorably and as such, it's become more difficult to find an authentic and fair match. That's why we're all so excited to play Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (because the game is new and there is less likelihood that anyone has cracked the source code and messed with the programming). There has been a bit of a split among the guild I'm in though, especially with regard to what console we should move onto. Some players have already purchased a Wii U, while others have gone to the Playstation 3. As for myself, I'm still stuck on the fence and I really want to get my hands on the game because Call of Duty games, although not well-known for their single player campaigns, they are infamous for their hardcore multi-player experiences and high replay value.

The Wii U version in particular offers some unique gameplay elements you can not get from the other consoles on the market currently. The most significant of which is the ability to play on the U-pad almost anywhere in the house (so long as you are in range). So technically, if you were desperate, you could potentially be able to play in the bathroom while on the "throne"...

However, there hasn't been many players online on the Wii U version. I suspect that it is because the Wii U is going to be a Christmas gift for many "unsuspecting" children. Many of which will probably hop online either during or immediately after Christmas. Thus these "Christmas Noobs" will most assuredly provide a near limitless supply of sub-par competition so as of right now, I'm not that worried about the current online turnout.

It is at this time that I would like to remind parents that CALL OF DUTY GAMES ARE INTENDED FOR TEENS 17+ YEARS OLD. PLEASE DO NOT LET YOUR YOUNGER CHILDREN PLAY THIS GAME. PLEASE BE ADVISED OF THE ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) RECOMMENDATIONS. They're placed on the box cover for a reason folks. The Call of Duty franchise tends to be violent, graphic, and gory at times. I can't tell you how many children end up playing these games when they should be playing something more suitable to their age levels. Older players will rip them to shreds with vulgar language and racial slurs and the children tend to return them in full...

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Pendulum Swing -- Thoughts on the Wii U (Part #1)

Hello everyone! How are you? I figured that it was about time to do another blog post (particularly because I have some disposable time and due to the fast approaching launch of the Wii U just around the corner).

The following are my thoughts on the upcoming Nintendo console. I do not want to discourage those from purchasing the console nor overly advocate the purchase of the Wii U. You have to use your own discretion. If any of my points help in your final decision, then more power to you.

For the most part, I feel like an emotional pendulum regarding the pros and cons of the console. On the positive side for instance, the Wii U is backwards compatible with nearly all of its predecessor's titles. In addition, the Wii U also uses the Wii Remote, Nunchuck, and almost all of the other accessories as well. This is a great benefit to those that don't want to waste money on extra controllers.

However, there are also a few downsides. For example, the new tablet controller (which I will hereby dub as either the U-tablet, U-tab, or U-pad) while versatile in allowing players to play without the need for a television screen, still is limited in range from the console itself (so you can't go on a road-trip & play a game) and there is a limit of two U-tablets per console. I would imagine that if you wanted to play Call of Duty Black Ops 2 multi-player with 4 people, you might only be able to play "fair" with 3 players total because you could have two U-pads but would still need a Wii Remote controller (which requires the use of the full television screen, thus limiting the potential for two Wii Remotes & Nunchucks because playing split-screen is somewhat difficult to do and gives an unfair advantage to those who engage in the practice of "screen-watching" where you peek at your opponents screen to determine where they're at on the map) or at the very least the other two players would both need to have Classic Controllers (or the Classic Controller Pro).

As a side note, it was a terrible marketing strategy for Nintendo to make an "improved" Classic Controller by adding only two more buttons and slapping on a "Pro" label to make it seem less arbitrary. Instead of having the appearance of an SNES controller like the original Classic Controller, this one is shaped more like the Nintendo GameCube controller. It functioned in essentially the very same way as the original, but with the exception that the shoulder buttons, which were designed to be digital trigger-shaped buttons, are placed vertically instead of horizontally. The connection cord is positioned on top of the controller rather than the bottom, and the spring-loaded attachment slot underneath the original model was removed.

The Nintendo TVii concept also seems somewhat gimmicky. I don't see the point of being able to post or comment on shows & movies when people do that with little care already on social networks. Adding Facebook functionality to Nintendo TVii is just sugar-coating something that isn't really all that significant to a gamer. I'm not sure exactly how it works but, Netflix could have just been on a separate app for the console like the Netflix channel already is on the Wii, but I suppose having Hulu and your DVR devices (such as TiVo) linked up all in one place would be a somewhat significant benefit. I like the idea of Miiverse though, because you can chat with your friends and track each other's progress as well as provide hints or tips to one another.

I'm also sort of perplexed as to why Nintendo is offering a significantly hindered Wii U console (the "Basic White Set") if the black ("Deluxe set") has a feature that could've benefited BOTH models. What I'm referring to is Nintendo's Digital Download Rewards Program of sorts. Apparently, the "Deluxe Black Model" (which has 32 GB of internal memory) allows for players to earn points for every digital download they purchase to be applied towards additional add-on content or other games. Apparently, players earn approximately 10% of the price paid at the Nintendo eShop for each game and downloadable content purchased online. Points are only earned on purchases over 10 cents and at 10 cent increments. Owners of the Wii U Basic Set do not qualify for Deluxe Digital Promotion.

This feature seems to really force consumers to buy the "Deluxe Model" because the "Basic White Set" (8 GB of internal memory) does not have this sort of "customer appreciation" aspect attached to it. In fact, the Basic set is severely limiting in that for only $50 more, you could get four times the internal memory. It is almost as if Nintendo was intentionally trying to create a schism between lower and higher income families. Personally, I think that Nintendo should've made the Deluxe Model the standard, saved on production costs, and just made the only difference an aesthetic color change. I believe that all products should be made available in black. It's a sleek, stylish color, and it's been said that "black goes with everything". I hold that to be a self evident truth, but I digress. It just seems like an unnecessary division artificially created by Nintendo in order to make up for lost profits.

On the positive side, I'm FINALLY content with the launch line-up this time around, especially with the increased third party support. I'm happy that Nintendo decided to pick up Bayonetta 2 (although I don't believe that this title will be ready by the holiday season). Nonetheless, I would be more than willing to pick up a copy of the game despite having no prior knowledge of the original title's storyline.

I'm worried that since Nintendo is releasing the Wii U towards the end of this year, Microsoft & Sony will just steal/expand upon more of the innovative concepts that Nintendo has implemented and thus make the Wii U a flop. The Wii lost a lot of hardcore gamers because of the lack of third party support, decent online support, and proper processing power. As such, I felt somewhat betrayed for purchasing one with the foolish belief that it would be a worthwhile investment. Especially since Microsoft and Sony took the motion control concept and made it much more fluid. Nintendo had to sell an add-on accessory to get the Wii to have true 1:1 movement.

At this time, I'm still skeptical and somewhat hesitant of the idea of purchasing a Wii U especially considering the MSRP tag of $299.99 (£249.99,€299.99) for the Basic and $349.99 (£299.99, €349.99) for the Premium. Until I see the other new consoles, their capabilities, and I am able to make an reasonably informed decision, I will look at Nintendo with condescending glare. I'm waiting for Nintendo to really impress me amidst the competition.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online -- Update #2 -- Number Crunch

Hello my readers!!! How are you all doing? I've found some interesting news regarding Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online.

First of all, regarding the "pushing" mechanic in battle, I've found out through Siliconera, that apparently, players are able to push their opponents into magic spells set up by their allies. I'd like to (ideally) get another source to confirm this but it does seem to make logical sense. A character's weight is determined by their body type and equipment. If your character is heavier, you can shove a monster into a spell. (One would imagine that there's some sort of limitation to maneuverability to compensate and prevent players from becoming too over-encumbered. Whether or not this is true is merely speculation on my part, but it would not seem very fair for, say, a small character such as a dwarf or kuripo to be able to push a large monster such as a King Slime and still be able to maintain their agility.)

Other than that tidbit regarding the gameplay itself, sales of the game have been a bit dismal in the sense that in it's first week of release (in Japan) only 384,061 copies were sold. This is drastically lower than the initial launch of Square Enix's previous installment, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for the Nintendo DS (2,338,221 units sold within the first week). Now, granted that these respective games are on completely different platforms and that one has to consider Dragon Quest X's deterrent of a required subscription fee to play online, Dragon Quest titles have a tendency to usually break the 1 million mark during the first week. For instance, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for the Playstation 2 sold 2,267,827 units within its first week and Dragon Warrior VII for the original Playstation sold 1,821,450 units. Now, there are a lot of other factors at work with regards to the sales figures, however, I hypothesize that the true deal-breaker for most consumers was the required subscription fee to play online. It is quite possible though, that many gamers (such as myself) are looking to wait until the Wii U version is released (as many people sense that the Wii is at the end of its life-cycle and that there may be better content on the Wii U version.)

 The game does offer a somewhat limited offline mode in which you play as the main character's sibling and get to play through a separeate side-storyline, but that's only equivalent to perhaps 10 or so hours of gameplay. The rest of the game really needs to be played online and unless it's during the "Free Play" period, you'll have to shell out some cash. In Japan, the fees are as follows:

Author's Note: I highly recommend that you take a look at the links I've provided below. There's plenty of information, most of which I've only merely brushed up upon. I intend to modify and edit this particular post when I find the time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online -- Update #1 -- The Japanese Launch!!!

Hey everyone!!! Sorry for the long hiatus, but I've been rather busy as of late. Nonetheless, I have a lot of information to dive into, so let's get started:

I have an update on Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes online! Dragon Quest X was just released on Thursday, August 2, 2012, for the Nintendo Wii in Japan.

If you haven't seen my previous post regarding the game, you can check it out here. The Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) is now said to come with a 16 GB memory stick included in special bundles (it can also be purchased separately). The USB flash drive is used to save character details and other important data.

The main world, known as Astoltia (according to the NGamer Staff for NGamer Magazine and the official Facebook page) is comprised of five islands (one of which is actually a cluster of smaller, individual islands) and a central continent in which humans mainly reside.

Gamers begin their journies in Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online as a human from Etene Village. Later on, the player creates a new character from one of the five other remaining races (Dwarf, Kuripo, Elf, Wedie, or Ogre).

Players can customize their very own characters, choosing everything from gender to size, as well as naming them and altering their appearances to one's liking. In addition, the player also creates another "sibling" character, which also aids in the main storyline.

Once players have reached a certain point within the single player (offline) story mode (approximately 2 to 2 & 1/2 hours into gameplay), they will be prompted to connect online to continue play. This however, requires a paid monthly subscription in order to be granted full access. Fortunately, "Director Jin Fujisawa didn’t want that to be a barrier for long time fans of the [Dragon Quest] series". As such, there is an implementation of a "Free Play" period that lasts for two hours each day in which players of all ages can log on and play the online portions of the game without a penalty fee. According to one of Kotaku's authors, Richard Eisenbeis, there is a product code included in the game box for a free, 20 day subscription courtesy of Square Enix Co. Also worth mentioning, is that there are two CD-ROMs that are included as part of the (somewhat lengthy) installation process.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Hey everyone!!! I'm alive (and thus this blog is as well), and I've got good news. I'm out on summer vacation!!! Wahoo!!! :D Ok, so that means more coverage of games & whatnot. Things to look forward to:
  1. The Electronic Entertainment Expo also known as E3. That's the annual video game conference and show at the Los Angeles Convention center for those of you that are unaware. I can't go to that because I'm not a member of the press (nor do I have the resources to afford to go) but regardless, I will cover the highlights of the expo and include my thoughts on each booth and company presentation. To be held June 5-7, 2012 
  2. Comic-Con International: Held in San Diego, California which is the home of the largest comic book and popular arts convention in the world! To be held July 12th-15th, 2012 (No, I can't attend that money equals no super spectacular trip...) 
I have a lot planned for this summer though in terms of personal goals, lifetime goals, as well as a few goals for this blog. If I feel comfortable sharing, I may do so but only if it's pertinent to video games, movies, or popular culture. Stay tuned!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I apologize for my lack of blog posts for the past two weeks. I've been busy with schoolwork and thus I haven't had much time to adequately gather the data necessary to keep you all up-to-date. I am trying to work gradually during the week to be able to make posts by Friday/Saturday but it's been a bit of a challenge when you have to also do blog posts for your Political Science course. So, as soon as I am able, I will make a blog regarding the upcoming Kid Icarus: Uprising game for the Nintendo 3DS and then I will do a follow-up blog regarding new details for Dragon Quest X Online: Rise Of The Five Tribes. Stay tuned folks!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Third Dimension

The Animal Crossing series has been a phenomenal success ever since its debut title in 2001 for the Nintendo GameCube (U.S. release). Since then, two additional titles have been made, Animal Crossing: Wild World for the Nintendo DS handheld, and Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Nintendo Wii.

The game itself is a sort of life simulator with anthropomorphic animal critters as interactive neighbors. The original title was quaint and you start off on a train to some unknown destination. You meet a cool cat named Rover who decides to strike up a short conversation with you. (At this point, the player does not know what his or her avatar looks like as they player gets a first person view of everything in the cabin.) By answering certain questions the player's appearance is then determined. Unfortunately, sometimes to the dismay of the player...regardless, the train arrives in town and the player then meets Tom Nook, a tanuki or raccoon dog. He shows you some of the available houses and after the player chooses one to his or her liking, Tom Nook promptly asks for payment for the cramped living space. Ironically, the player can't pay the full amount initially and Tom Nook decides that to remedy the situation, he'll have to give the player a temporary job at his store. After completing all of the mundane tasks, Tom Nook decides that the player is no longer required to work for him and that they can pay him at their own discretion.

Now, at this point, most people might think to completely disregard their debt and do as they see fit. However the house is, as I've stated before, very cramped. Thus, if the player wants to expand their home, they must complete payments by selling fruit, fish, fossils, et cetera to Tom Nook for bells (the currency used in town). This is essentially the premise of the game. However, because of its lax nature, the player has quite a lot of freedom. Players can develop strong bonds with their animal friends and collect a wide assortment of items and furniture. There's a museum, police station (with a lost-and-found which can be used to claim multiple items without repercussions), and a vast ocean to fish. There are insects and seashells to collect as well. Once the player expands their house to maximum capacity and pays off all of their debt, Tom Nook congratulates the player and erects a statue of them in gold. (In later versions, the mayor allows the player to have a flagpole next to their home and create a personalized flag). 

The game has quite a lot for a player to do. I would most definitely argue that this game is a casual experience and can be picked up and played at any time. In recent installments to the series, a multi-player aspect has been introduced, albeit with a  requirement that each player own their own individual copies of the game and their own respective devices.

As an avid gamer (and one that just so happens to own all three titles), I have to say that, thus far, my favorite has to be the original simply because it was such a uniquely revolutionary experience. Even the advertisements for the game were enticing. The cozy atmosphere and relaxing music only add to the depth of the whole virtual world.

On a separate note, I feel that the crown jewel of the franchise is the ability to make pixelated patterns at the Able Sisters workshop. You can use these custom-made patterns to make shirts, billboards (in the original game), and umbrellas. The level of customization allows anyone to become an artist and there are multiple palettes to choose from. One can compare the system to a color-by-number canvas. There are even websites dedicated to converting pictures of just about anything one desires, into pixelated forms that can be manually transferred into the game by following a numerical setup. Some really talented people make elegant murals from multiple patterns and sell each "piece" for a profit (in bells). My only qualm is that in nearly every iteration, the palettes are changed or (in some cases) removed, so one may not be able to make an exact replica of a pattern that they had in a previous version. Colors my be too bright, dark, or nonexistent. I would like to see a much more unified and standardized palette set.

Now, Nintendo has recently unveiled a fourth title for the Nintendo 3DS which I can not wait to purchase. Seeing as how I only have one multiplayer game in my possession (Dead or Alive: Dimensions), and that being one that so few gamers in my area and network of friends possess, it is all the more reason for me to save up for this game, especially knowing of my previously favorable experiences with Animal Crossing.

I'm hoping that Nintendo will take full advantage of the Nintendo 3DS's capabilities. Namely, I would like to see the gyroscope used for, say, shooting down presents from balloons or perhaps the ability to take pictures of your friends and incorporate them as portraits or the ability to take in-game screenshots that can be saved to the SD card like in Animal Crossing: City Folk. Also, the Mii Mask would be a welcome return in my opinion. Ideally, I would like the option to trade patterns and/or store them to the SD card as well. The added space would be great considering that in Animal Crossing: City Folk, there was a glitch with the Able Sister's shop storage for patterns where the first page may be deleted randomly. There was an article about the incident in a Game Informer magazine if I'm not mistaken.

Another slight problem is trading items. Having to drop and pick up items is sort of irritating considering that another perhaps more obnoxious player could pick up the item and run off with it. It would be nice and convenient to have some sort of trading mechanic where players can designate what items go to which players. This isn't necessarily a problem considering that most items can be ordered via Tom Nook's catalog so long as the player had obtained the item previously, but it DOES become a problem when the item (or items) in question is/are rather valuable (in terms of bell cost).

There is no definitive name for the new Animal Crossing game as of yet. Nonetheless, one should note that there will be a multitude of changes to the traditional roles of the characters in the game. Most notably, Tortimer, the prominent mayor of all of the games up until this point, will no longer be the mayor in this iteration. In fact, the players themselves take on this role. Whether or not the tortoise will make an appearance is uncertain. In addition, it appears that Tom Nook now runs a real estate agency (according to Koji Takahashi, the Design Leader). Apparently, as mayor, the player can add certain public accommodations such as benches or street lamps. There is a brand new character to aid the player as well with their duties. A clumsy female canine secretary named Hisho. (As as side note, she's nicknamed "Shizu" by Mr. Takahashi). I suspect that he calls her that because she has the appearance of a Shih Tzu.)

I find this addition to be quite practical seeing as how Pelly was the daytime secretary of Tortimer in Animal Crossing: Wild World and Animal Crossing: City Folk.

Another change, albeit perhaps a less shocking one, is the inclusion of the ability to alter the appearance of both shirts, pants, and shoes that the player wears. Coupled with this modification, the player avatars are much taller now, which leads me to believe that  the development team is attempting to appeal to a much broader audience seeing as how even older, veteran gamers enjoy this game as well.

I'm curious to learn how to make my own furniture seeing as how it was also mentioned that this is a possibility as well. The option to change the aesthetic appearance of already existing pieces is nice, but I worry that the feature may not be a fully-fledged furniture creator.

Also, being able to create model homes that can be swapped via StreetPass seems to be somewhat interesting as far as player connectivity is concerned.

I'm overjoyed that there is a train station in this installment as well as a shopping mall. I wonder if Phineas the sea lion will make a return appearance seeing as how he was in the city near a boutique giving away balloons and pinwheels in Animal Crossing: City Folk.

There was an article featured in Nintendo Power magazine (Vol. 270 August 2011) by Chris Slate. Unfortunately, it wasn't as informative as I had hoped. There was no mention of Hisho whatsoever. In addition, the information that was provided was minuscule at best which is odd considering that they could've at least made some inferences based upon the teaser trailer from E3.

 From what I saw in the June 2011 E3 trailer, (approximately 25 seconds into the video) there appears to be a wooden frame beehive (there were flowers placed all around the structure and it looks similar to real-life Langstroth beehives).

When this game will finally arrive on store shelves remains a mystery.
E3 2011 Trailer -- Property of Nintendo

Video is property of The1UPNetwork. 

Slate, Chris. "Animal Crossing*: Get Ready to Move into a Whole New Neighborhood." Nintendo Power Aug. 2011: 59.Print

Sunday, January 1, 2012

On a Quest for the New Year

Dragon Quest X Online: Rise Of The Five Tribes is an upcoming massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) for the Nintendo Wii and Wii U consoles. I am eagerly anticipating the release of this title. This is in part due to my previously favorable experience with Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for the Nintendo DS. (There is, as of yet, no U.S. released date scheduled. The game should be out in Japan sometime in 2012).  For those of you that are unaware, the series doesn't really have a linear timeline. (You don't have to play the games in order for you to understand the story. From my understanding, each game has it's own unique, separate tale.)

In any case, in the October 2011 issue of Nintendo Power Magazine (Vol. 272) it was stated that the game was announced in 2008 by Yuji Horii. There was a long period of silence however and not much was really known about the title until a September 5, 2011 conference in which Mr. Horii officially revealed that Dragon Quest X Online: Rise Of The Five Tribes would be an MMORPG that would not only be expansive but very plot driven (pg. 24, Vol. 272). (A common fear of most veterans of the Dragon Quest franchise would be that  the online story would be lackluster and unimaginative, an unfortunately common trait of most online RPGs). According to Casey Loe, the author of the article, the game itself "will be constantly shaped by the actions of other players, and an Internet connection would be required to play." She also mentioned that a monthly fee may also be a possible prerequisite for play. As far as the gameplay mechanics are concerned, apparently players will have the option of joining friends online in quests or adventuring solo with AI (artificial intelligence) controlled computer characters. Apparently, the game's structure will be similar to that of Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies as it will retain the ability to change vocations (at special shrine locations) and use skill points (pg. 18, Vol. 273).

In the follow-up article by Casey Loe, details regarding the main storyline were unveiled. Specifically, players will be able to chose from among five different races (hence the title), such as the "sprite-like" Pukuripo, Wedies (aquatic "music-loving" creatures), woodland elves, ogres, and lofty dwarves. Humans are not made initially available "as the human populated continent has been sealed away by the game's villain and it's up to the other races to liberate it." (pg. 18, Vol. 273). Based upon screenshots of each of the races and Casey Loe's description, one could make the claim that the Wedie race are comparable to that of the Zora in The Legend of Zelda universe in that both have many similarities between them (i.e. both are blue skinned aquatic races, both like music, and both have fin-like protrusions, etc.).

Finally, according to the previous article, the Wii U version of Dragon Quest X will come with "enhanced features" (pg. 24, Vol. 272).

My only concern with this upcoming game (beyond the possibility of a monthly online fee) is that the Wii version of the game may lag frequently and use up too much bandwidth. I'm hoping that my fears will be assuaged as more information is released.

Keep an eye out for this title! Also, please enjoy your New Year's celebration in moderation.
This image is property of IGN (Imagine Games Network).

This image is property of IGN (Imagine Games Network). From left to right: Pukuripo, Elven, Ogre, Wedie, Dwarf

1.) Loe, Casey. "A Quest of Millions." Nintendo Power Oct. 2011: 24. Print
2.) Loe, Casey. "The Dragon's Hoard" Nintendo Power Nov. 2011: 18. Print