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Links to the Past

A long time ago (June 2010) in a galaxy far, far away, I started a blogging feature I called "...To Be Continued." This feature was supposed to chronicle my efforts to clean up my game collection and actually finish some of the 36 games gathering dust on my shelves that had never been completed. Along the way, I got distracted time and time again, and you found me blogging about games that were never on that original list. Well, in the interest of confusing you all, I have devised another new feature blog!

Here's what you're going to see from me going forward. Whenever I actually play a new release, I will write a review without blogging an update. When I cross one of the games off of the "...To Be Continued" list, there will be a blog announcing as much. This new feature you are experiencing now, "Links to the Past," will be dedicated to my ramblings about when I finish a game that is new to me, but old to the rest of the world.

So for the inaugural "Links to the Past" post, I present you with: "X-Men Legends." Great game, one that I can't believe I passed over back when it was new. It's a team-based RPG-action game, with roots in the classic X-Men brawlers of old. I normally don't get into many RPGs, but this one was put together so well you had to love it. Upgrading your mutants to make their abilities more powerful is just a natural fit for this universe!

When you combine the solid gameplay with good graphics, great voice-acting and a pretty darn good story, what's not to love about this game? Well, it did sort of end on a cliff-hanger, but I was already planning on picking up the sequel anyway. I already know that it's going to be another $5 well spent.

To Be Continued...Episode 11


Debriefing: It's nice to actually scratch a title off of my original list (see: TBC: Episode 1 from way back in June 2010) instead of add a new one to it. That's always been my problem; dedication. Here I've got all these old games that need to be finished, and I keep buying new ones instead. Ah, enough rambling. I still haven't said what I just beat!

Super Mario 64! Ah, yes, one of the classics. I didn't have it myself when it was new, and can't get a decent price for it used now, so I bought on the Virtual Console. Maybe it's not as pure an experience as playing in its original format would be, but it's close enough if you ask me. Let me say, I had a blast with this one, as I'm sure all the millions of people who played it before me would say. Great level design and a ton of content (120 power stars to collect! Need I say more?) kept me entertained for hours. And I did get all 120. I confess I needed to rely on guides for some of the later ones, but I still collected them all myself. Yup, gonna pat myself on the back there. Alrighty then.

So what's next on the horizon? I know, I know, I know, Jet Force Gemini was supposed to be the next off the list. But it's been leapfrogged. A few times. Now that Mario is out of the way, I can dive headfirst into Skyward Sword. I picked that up Day 1, but have only played it a little bit as I split time with Mario 64. Then once that's done, I will probably start playing X-Men Legends. Yes, that comes right out of left field. But I wanted it, and saw it on sale at Gamestop!

It occurs to me that I'm not progressing through this list very quickly. And it's not just because I keep adding new titles to the list. But I never have time to play games anymore! I started this project back in June 2010. 2010! And I've only removed three games off the original list! All the other entries on this countdown have been subsequent additions! Man, I've got problems! I envy all you people who have time enough to play games...

When we last saw our hero: I just completed the first temple in Skyward Sword. My initial impressions are positive. The game looks great and the motion controls are mostly responsive. The story is a little 'meh' so far, but I'm enjoying the new gameplay mechanics. I'm more than happy to soldier on and rescue Zelda.

Here we go!

Lost Nostalgia

Hope everyone had a good holiday. I know mine was a good one, as there are a number of things I'm particularly thankful for. My wife and I opted to spend part of the holiday weekend up North, and visited my family for the for time in a while. It was great to see them, especially my grandmothers. While we were up there I decided to look around for a little something from the past, and sadly, I found that you can't go home again.

I wanted to find my GameCube, as I had boxed it up and left it behind there ever since I got the Wii. I didn't need it really, I just like to know where my things are, you know? Because, well, things go missing. And unfortunately, that's just the case here, as no one had any idea where the Cube was. I fear that it is gone. This isn't the first time something like this has happened though. Below, you will find the brief, tragic history of my old video game systems.

We received our NES as a gift from one of our neighbors, as they were upgrading to an SNES, and didn't see a need to own two consoles. We played the heck out of that thing. As any NES owner will attest though, that thing sucked up so much dust that it became hit or miss as to whether or not it would turn on. We finally upgraded to an N64 (we missed out on the SNES generation; incredible, I know), and set the NES aside without a second thought. It was stored in the basement, and forgotten. Eventually I went away to school. I'm pretty sure that the system met its end when my parents' basement flooded one summer. I never got any closure.

We received one of the old school grey, bulky Game Boys from my uncle when he upgraded to a Game Boy Pocket (detecting a pattern here?). It was the most incredible thing ever. I played that thing constantly, and remain convinced to this day that those awful graphics were the catalyst for my terrible eyesight. My dad noticed that we played it a lot too. On one particular occasion, he felt it was getting in the way of our chores, and so he grounded us from it for a week, hiding it from us. After a week had passed, we went to him to get it back. He claimed that he had no idea what we were talking about. We never found out if he was serious or not, but he claimed he had forgotten where he had hid it.

Years later, we found the poor thing on a shelf in the garage. By then the battery case had rusted out entirely, rendering it unplayable. For sentimental reasons, I've held on to that old shell.

During the period of the missing Game Boy, we eventually had to concede that it was lost. I broke down and bought a Game Boy Color to take its place. As you might expect, played that thing all the time. And then one day, it too went missing. During those days, my mom hired a maid to clean the house, as she was too busy to do it herself. She or I suspected the maid might have taken the Game Boy Color (and subsequently, the copy of Metroid II plugged into it). Many, many years went by before I finally replaced those items, finding a copy of Metroid II in a used game store, and buying lunch for a friend in exchange for his Game Boys Color and Pocket (a steal if you ask me!).

And now, the GameCube. I fear a pox is upon all of my belongings that remain in my parents' home. Unfortunately, I don't have room for all of my old things here in our apartment, thus they remain behind. Hopefully, that will change soon; When our lease is up in the spring we are planning to move into a bigger place, where I might finally be able to bring down many of my old possessions. I've got a new job now (one of those things I'm thankful for), and finally we can afford more space...which finally allows us to start a family of our own. :)

Well that's odd...

Those of you who actually watch your news feeds might have noticed that I added a whole slew of retro titles to my collection today. No, I didn't slip into a tryptophan-induced coma and go crazy on the Wii Shop Channel. I had actually purchased all of these quite some time ago. But earlier today I noticed that Super Mario 64 was no longer appearing in my game collection. Upon closer examination I discovered that all of my virtual console purchases had disappeared from my GameSpot collection. However, my WiiWare titles remain intact.

GameSpot must be doing some housecleaning, reclassifying how DLC like Virtual Console titles are categorized. It's a little bit annoying, considering how the titles were removed from my lists without my realization. Who knows, maybe this happened forever ago, and I'm just now noticing.

But no harm, no foul. Only thing is, now when you look at my collection, you have no way of knowing that some of those titles are in fact Virtual Console downloads and not in their original form. Nitpicky maybe, but it is what it is.

Anybody else notice this?

To Be Continued: Episode 10


Debriefing: Here is another one that you didn't see on my initial list. This one is a little odd anyway, as it's not one single game, but rather a collection of episodes. Earlier today I finished the final episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. There were five games in total, all released back in 2008 for WiiWare and PC. I actually had played Episode 1 when it first came out, and the PC version of Episode 5 when it was available as a (limited time only) free download last year, but I never got around to Episodes 2-4 until recently. Well now I'm done with all five, and let me say I am mostly satisfied.

Looking at the series as a whole, it's a solid experience. Each game has a stand-alone story, and the all are well-written and really funny. In the first game, "Homestar Ruiner," Strong Bad needs to find a way to get Homestar and Marzipan back together (after he in fact was responsible for their breakup) when the dejected Homestar moves into Strong Bad's house. "Then in Strong Badia The Free," Strong Bad launches a campaign to usurp the King of Town from his throne, after an unjust email tax is levied against our hero. (Note: This just might have been the funniest of the five.) Then in "The Baddest of the Bands," Strong Bad hatches an overly complex plan to raise the funds he needs in order to get his video game machine fixed: convince all of his friends to start up bands, sign them up for a battle of the bands, and then win said battle of the bands! The fourth episode is the long-awaited movie sequel Strong Bad has long promised his legions of fans: "Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective." It is a low-budget film noir in which Strong Bad needs to recover Cutesy Button's secret formula, so that she can save the rain forest...but who is the real villain behind the plot to destroy the sun? And the grand finale of the series is "8-Bit is Enough," in which Free Country USA becomes intertwined with all of Strong Bad's favorite video games. You better look out when Trogdor is on the loose!

In the likely event that you have no idea what I'm even talking about, these games are point-and-click adventures starring the characters of the Homestar Runner universe. If you're not already familiar with that website, you probably won't be too interested in these games, but I really do recommend them to established fans.

When we last saw our heroes: I'm going in a totally new direction now. The new plan is to tackle Jet Force Gemini again for the first time in forever. That's right, I'm finally going to face Mizar once more. In case you are not familiar with this game, let me lay it out for you exactly how much I went through when I first played this game about a decade ago. As you play through the rather lengthy campaign travelling across multiple worlds as three different characters on different missions, you finally get all three heroes to what you think is the final showdown. But lo and behold, just when you think Mizar is defeated, he sprouts some wings and takes off through space bound for Earth! Now you need a state-of-the-art spaceship to chase him down. Those fuzzy little allies of yours, the Tribals, have one you can use...if you can repair it. Hope you were looking for the spare parts that were randomly hidden in each of the levels you already played! And oh yeah, the Tribals already have the final piece in their possession...but they won't give it to you unless you rescue EACH AND EVERY ONE of their kidnapped people, who again, where being held prisoner in all those levels you played. Time to backtrack and play pretty much the entire first half of the game AGAIN! Once you do that, you still have to fight your way to Mizar on his asteroid and fight him again. And that's where I finally had to throw down my controller in frustration, because I quite simply could not squash that giant bug.

But with all the time spent on that game, it's high time that I turned my attention once more to destroying that evil arachnid and saving the universe. Let's hope I haven't lost a step with the N64 controller...

Here we go!

Wii Who? Mii? U? A Knee-jerk Reaction to Nintendo's New Console

Well, unless you live under a rock, you know that E3 is currently upon us. (Never heard of the Electronic Entertainment Expo? You don't even have satellite under your rock, do you?) Nintendo's press conference was this morning, and as expected, the big announcement was the reveal of the new console: Wii U.

Yes, Wii U. Yes, I hate the name. But I'm betting it will grow on me. Remember how much we all thought 'Wii' was the stupidest name since, well, ever? There's obviously still time for the name to change (the console shouldn't be out until late 2012), but I'm 90% certain that Ninty won't change the name. They reestablished themselves as a major power with the Wii, and they don't want to risk losing any momentum they gained, so they will almost definitely stick close to the Wii brand name. (One thing it definitely won't be called is Cafe ;).)

So what's the big deal with this thing? For the second consecutive generation, Nintendo's new do-dad features a very unique controller. The Wii U controller is a move back toward conventional controllers in that it has all the standard buttons that the Wii did away with in the name of simplicity. D-pad, dual circle pads, A, B, X, Y, double shoulder and trigger buttons on this baby. Like the Wii remote, it features a motion controls, including a gyroscope and an accelerometer. But the kicker is that it also has a 6.2" touch screen. It can be used like a DS screen. It has all sorts of secondary uses that will make in-game appearances, but are far too numerous to list here. The really nifty thing? You can take the action off of the TV screen and play it on the controller's screen almost as if it were a handheld system! Naturally, it isn't actually one and has to stay in range of the home console. But the picture quality appears to have hardly any dropoff. That is pretty cool if you ask me. Only time will tell if that actually turns out to be a feature I would use frequently.

Oh yeah, did I mention picture quality? The controller's display screen obviously isn't quite HD, though it does look very clear and bright. But the Wii U is indeed an HD-ready console! Yay, Nintendo for finally entering the modern age of technology! I for one am really excited about that. Not that graphics were ever the most important thing to me, but just seeing the number of first-class games that ignored the Wii's sub-standard hardware over the last few years made me very frustrated. That is a thing of the past! Third-party developers already are jumping on board the Wii U train (reportedly). Look for Assassin's Creed, Batman: Arkham City, Darksiders 2, even a version of Ninja Gaiden III on the new console! Whoo-hoo! Now we're talking!

So how to sum up my feelings about the Wii U? Excited. The name I don't care for. The gimmickyness of the controller? Curious, but not concerned. The hardware? Two thumbs way up. The software lineup? Already a lot of must-haves on it, and more to come, I'm sure. Sign me up!

To Be Continued...Episode 9


Debriefing: I finished Okamiden earlier today. Man, I love that series. This game wasn't nearly as innovative as the first one, though it was definitely just as epic. It really is essentially a portable version of the first game. I certainly don't want to see this series get milked to death, but I would not mind at all if they make another sequel, as the developers obviously wanted to, with all the hints they were dropping in that drawn-out conclusion!

So what's next for me? I honestly have no idea. I've had a GameStop gift card burning a hole in my pocket for months now. I could see myself picking up a couple used games over there. But I ought to revisit the original list and try to scratch something off of it before I add more to it. Time will tell. Really, I haven't been able to make much time for gaming as of late. Note that it took me two months to beat a game I only put 20 hours into. Right now I'm working and going to school. My final projects will be turned in next week, and then I'll be done for the summer. But my wife (who is a teacher) will obviously be home for the summer, and she deserves my attention too. (Duh!) I think I'll just keep putting time into Super Smash Bros. Brawl, trying to complete those last few challenges I never got around to. Then I'll take on some of those many virtual console downloads that are gathering virtual dust.

When we last saw our hero: Well, our hero is lost and confused. Is he scaling Dracula's castle, trying to lift a curse? Or is he exploring Princess Peach's castle, trying to collect power stars? Actually, all that and more. Our hero is somewhat of a multi-tasker. Let's all wait and see which task he completes first, shall we?

Composite vs. Component

How long have I had my Wii now? I bought it when I was living in that apartment in college, so it would have had to have been my junior or senior year. That would be somewhere between 2006-2008. I'm pretty sure it was just before Christmas of '07 that I bought it. So I've had this thing about 3 1/2 years. So why am I just now purchasing a component cable for it, now when my time spent playing games is at an all-time low? Because there was never reason for it before. It was just a few weeks back that we went ahead and spent part of our tax refund on a brand spankin' new HDTV (42" LG LED, 1080p, 120Hz in case you're interested).

Obviously, the Wii is not a fully HD console. Is it even accurate to say it's somewhat HD? I don't really think so. Sure, it can push some really great graphics when it tries, but the average Wii game doesn't hold a candle to what you typically see on the PS3 and Xbox360.

Don't worry, I'm not going to turn this into some diatribe about how the Wii's hardware sucks. I made peace with what the Wii is and isn't long ago. What I'm getting at (in an admittedly very roundabout way) is that the Wii can be made to look even better if you make the jump up to component cables. All this time I've simply been using the composite cables that came with the system, and they were fine for the longest time because of the TVs I was playing on. But the other day, I fired up the Wii for one of my rare gaming sessions, wanting to enjoy it on my new TV for the first time. Let me say, I was disappointed. It just wasn't pretty. I went into the system settings to see if I could ramp this thing up to take advantage of the new TV, and that was when I was reminded that I needed component cables. I went out and bought them the very next day. The resulting picture isn't on par with true HD graphics, but let me say, the difference with before and after is very discernable.

In case you are not familiar with composite and component cables, let me break it down in layman's terms. Composite cables are your typical, everyday red, white and yellow plugs. With that setup, red and white are your stereo sound, while yellow is your video signal. With component cables, red and white are still the audio signal. But the video signal is broken up into not one, but three cables: red, blue and green. The result is brighter, crisper colors and the difference is huge.

The drawback to this is that the Wii does not support all too high a max resolution, so with the enhanced colors, you will be able to detect more jagged lines than you could before. It's a little bit of a trade-off, but one that is well worth it in my opinion. Until the Wii 2 is released (which actually could be sooner than we think), this is as close to HD as Nintendo owners will get. If you're on the fence, I advise you to make the jump.

To Be Continued...Episode 8


Debriefing: Scratch Donkey Kong Country Returns off the list. You're probably noticing how it took me a really freakin' long time to finish this one. Well, as you know I like to take my time with games. And with a game like DKCR with so much content to wade through and a surprisingly high difficulty, of course it was gonna take forever! I would like to point out that while I did not get a "Mission Accomplished" on this one, I exceeded 100% completion. Let's just say that this game is packed to the gills with bonus content. I have beaten the game, including all optional levels. I've collected the K-O-N-G letters in each level. I've collected all puzzle pieces (ranging between 4-9 in each) in all levels. What I haven't done is all the time trials and mirror levels. That's just too much for me right now. I've already got 101% completion, and if I do any more it will be drawn out over a very long period of time. Any more Donkey Kong right now and my wife might smack me upside the head.

So moving on. Once again, instead of revisiting the original list though, I'm picking up a new title. The timing is really perfect. Okamiden will release on Tuesday, but my pre-order is available to pick up today! It's like Christmas!

When we last saw our hero: Okamiden picks up several months after the conclusion of Okami. Supposedly, the threat of demons had been eliminated by the heroics of Amaterasu and Susano, but suddenly, evil has returned to Nippon. But this time, instead of Amaterasu coming to save the day, it is her celestial offspring, the adorable Chibiterasu! He and a colorful cast of allies will ride out to defeat evil and save Nippon once more from the encroaching darkness...

To Be Continued...Episode 7


Debriefing: Kirby's Epic Yarn. Yeah, I know you didn't see that one coming. I'm this close to doing away with the part of this blog where I detail what I'm going to be playing since that seems to never actually happen. But what the heck. I picked this game up and took my time with it, finally getting 100% earlier today after about 20 hours of gameplay. Anybody that says it isn't hard enough isn't giving it a proper chance. I loved it, and I'm no Kirby fanboy. Adorable graphics, great gameplay, rewarding extras. What's not to love about it?

When we last saw our hero: Gonna jump right into Donkey Kong Country Returns. I picked this up weeks ago but decided not to start on it until I finished Kirby. That time is now.

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