Tangential Aether

December 31, 2011

Look at all of the games I’ve beaten in 2011!

Filed under: Video Games — Prinnydood @ 12:03 pm

January (2)

  • Mega Man Star Force: Pegasus
  • Mega Man Star Force 2: Zerker X Saurian

February (1)

  • Dragon Warrior III

March (3)

  • Zettai Hero Project: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman
  • Pokémon White Version
  • Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition

April (1)

  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

May (11)

  • Mega Man Star Force 3: Black Ace
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  • Final Fantasy XII
  • Viewtiful Joe 2
  • Sonic Adventure 2 Battle
  • Mega Man
  • Mega Man 2
  • Nostalgia
  • Mega Man 3

June (15)

  • Mega Man 4
  • Mega Man 5
  • Mega Man 6
  • Mega Man 7
  • Mega Man 8
  • Mega Man: The Power Battle
  • Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
  • Mega Man ZX
  • Mega Man ZX Advent
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Super Mario Land
  • Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

July (3)

  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Donkey Kong ’94

August (10)

  • The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
  • Sonic Rush Adventure
  • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

September (4)

  • Kirby Squeak Squad
  • Mega Man Powered Up
  • Portal
  • The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition

October (1)

  • Kirby Mass Attack

November (1)

  • Super Mario 3D Land

December (11)

  • Mario Kart 7
  • Kirby’s Dream Land
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Sonic Generations
  • Kirby’s Dream Land 3
  • Mighty Switch Force!
  • Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
  • Mighty Flip Champs!
  • Mega Man Maverick Hunter X
  • Star Fox 64 3D

December 14, 2011

Pushing and Pulling

Filed under: Pushmo,Video Games — Prinnydood @ 9:53 am

The 3DS’s eShop has been pretty good for someone like me who didn’t have much in the way of disposable income during the Game Boy era. Sure, I owned a Game Boy Color as a kid, but I only had a paltry six games to my name. They were great games, but I can’t exactly say I experienced everything the system had to offer while it was in its prime. Fast-forward nearly fifteen years later and I find myself with such easy access to Game Boy games that are at such a low price that I find myself impulse buying them to the point where some of them still sit wrapped in the gift paper they come to the 3DS’s home page in.

But those are Virtual Console games—Game Boy Virtual Console games, at that. They aren’t exactly going to push the 3DS in any fashion, nor are they experiences that’ll last me an especially long time unless they’re RPGs of some kind. Enter Pushmo a quaint little game I heard about a few months ago when it was revealed in Japan as Hiku-osu. It casts the player as a dumpy little sumo wrestler named Mallo who has to rescue children that got stuck in a strange amusement park-like area called Pushmo Park. He does this by solving an inspired version of a block-pushing puzzle that sees him pulling configurations of blocks until he reaches their apex, where the child sits awaiting rescue.

It sounds simple, but I assure you it isn’t. In fact, it’s amazing how much can be wrung out of such a basic concept with a few twists grafted on for good measure. See, Mallo doesn’t only have to worry about pushing and pulling these blocks, he also has to work with a couple of other contraptions to make it to the top. There are special switches that push certain blocks out as far as they can go when stepped on and there are also manholes that Mallo can enter which will take him to another part of the puzzle.

Working with both of those provides that brain-busting challenge that all good puzzle games have. A lot of them are real stumpers while some of them are relatively simple, but all of them are valuable nuggets of information that the player would do well to absorb so that when they decide to make their own puzzles they know the rules that the game operates on.

Here's a puzzle I threw together to test out the construction tool set.

Yes, you can make your own puzzles; no they can’t be shared over Wi-Fi. That’s kind of a bummer, but they can be shared via QR code as you can see above. It’s not the simplest process they could have come up with, but it’s serviceable. Right now, I’ve gone as far as to unlock all of the functionality in Pushmo Studio so I can create as complex a puzzle as the game will allow me. No doubt we’ll be seeing a ton of NES sprites as puzzles, so there’s no need for me to join them. I’m more interested in coming up with some that are incredibly challenging, yet fair and rewarding. The turnaround on making a puzzle is fairly quick, so I could see groups forming online and sharing their puzzles as packages in a Pushmo-lite sort of way.

I’m not alone in saying that Pushmo is the killer app for the 3DS eShop. It’s got everything that defines the perfect downloadable 3DS experience: quick puzzles that take a few minutes to complete, tons of charm, and 3D that feel so natural that you won’t want to turn it off. The ability to share created stages is another boon to the game’s longevity. I’d like to see some official stages offered sometime down the line either in QR code form or as DLC. Even adding in SpotPass functionality like Mario Kart 7 does with ghost data would be a nice improvement.

Pushmo is a great start to the eShop finding its legs after subsisting only on Virtual Console games for the last few months. But I don’t expect it to be the only great game to come out of the service. I’ve got my eyes on Mighty Switch Force and Dillon’s Rolling Western as well. The former is a side-scroller by WayForward, a company I’m convinced can do no wrong on Nintendo handhelds and the latter is what appears to be Nintendo’s take on tower defense. I’ve already got money set aside for both, so here’s hoping they don’t disappoint.

December 8, 2011

Mario Kart has still got it

People are going to deride Mario Kart 7 for being “more of the same” and once again accuse Nintendo of “rehashing another one of their stalwart series just so they can make cartoonishly large piles of money” and I’m not going to say those people are wrong. In fact, they’re completely right. Mario Kart 7 is more of the same: More of the same item-based, drift-heavy, and altogether zany racing antics that have defined the series since the very beginning. And I’m having a blast with it. I don’t need any more proof than the fact that I’ve spent just about 20 hours with the game already and it’s only been out for five days or so.

I just can’t get enough of this game. One reason would be because Talking Time is having regular meet ups and I can’t help but try and maintain my place near the top of the leaderboard, but another is because I’m simply impressed with how well this formula holds up. It’s been nearly twenty years since Super Mario Kart came out, and I still haven’t had enough of this series. I can’t say why, exactly. Maybe it’s the little things, like the attention to detail given to the track design, or the randomness that can occur during a single race, or the way that there’s always room for me to improve. There’s always that one line I could have taken or that one shortcut I wouldn’t have missed if that Red Shell hadn’t come barreling out of nowhere to take away my one shot at victory.

Of course, that never happens. That honor is reserved for Blue Shells.

The track design is pretty amazing. I hesitate to say it’s the best in series history, but it’s certainly up there. The emphasis on tricks from Mario Kart Wii is downplayed heavily. It’s still possible to do them, and you’ll be rewarded handsomely for doing so, but there are fewer blatant stretches of nothing but bumps in the road placed only so that racers can do tricks. Time trial junkies will have a field day trying to improve their lines well enough to shave those precious few seconds from their times. That junkie may well be me since the game downloads a new set of ghost data every day. I’m pretty hooked on trying to beat them. That’s how I’ve started every session of Mario Kart 7 since day one, and I’m not one to normally care about the time trial. It’s got me excited to get the staff’s ghost data so I can prove my worth against the best out there.

I think it speaks highly of the superb track design that I’d even want to race through them as many times as I do and with as lonely a scenario as doing a time trial. There are absolutely no losers in the track set here as far as the all-new tracks are concerned, something I couldn’t say about any other game in the series except maybe the first one. I’ve already got favorites in Piranha Plant Slide, Wario Shipyard, and trio of Wuhu Loop, Maka Wuhu, and Rainbow Road. The last three illustrate another addition to the series: drag-race style one lap tracks. They’re divided into three sections and ensure the entire race is a completely new experience. I’m not thankful to Wii Sports and its sequel for much, but if they’re the impetus for that decision, then I can finally say I’m no longer indifferent to their creation. The distinction of worst track usually ends up going to the desert-themed one, and in fact, Mario Kart 64’s crown winner of that award is in this game as a refurbished retro track. Kalimari Desert is lame and I don’t care who knows it.

The retro tracks have been polished up to include the niceties added to this iteration of the series. Coins litter the track, outlining the optimal (and sometimes, sub-optimal) line to take on any given stretch of the track while providing a slight boost when collected as well as improving top speed by a non-negligible amount. Water has flooded certain parts of the track (most notably, Daisy Cruiser’s engine room was flooded and has clams in it for some reason). Finally, ramps launch karts into the air, allowing them to gracefully descend with the help of a new glider attachment. The glider is my favorite new addition because of how much strategy it introduces. Do I take a risk and try to cut the track by gliding over a pit or do I hit the ground immediately and take advantage of the curve to get a serious boost via drifting? Not to mention the mind games it caused when you see that someone has a Red Shell. You might want to think twice about taking to the skies when you know you could be shot down and suffer a protracted recovery period.

Speaking of items, the new additions in this game are great both for novice and skilled players alike. Lucky 7 is simultaneously the best and worst weapon in the game, once again because of how much strategy it introduces. You get seven predetermined items. You don’t choose which one to fire so much as you wait for the roulette wheel-like spin to land on the item you want to use. But then, you have to worry about driving while watching for the item you want, and you have to avoid bumping into other racers lest that Bob-omb you’re carrying go off in both of your faces or, worse, you drop all of your items. The Tanooki Tail is a boon for first-place racers. It joins the three-set of bananas as the ultimate defense against a volley of Red Shells, and even outpaces them by virtue of it being able to deflect debris on the track. Last but not least is the Fire Flower. It takes some finessing, but in the right hands, it can be devastating to racers both in front and behind the thrower.

All of that newness is complemented nicely by the ability to customize your kart before a race. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but once again, it gives the player a chance to improve their odds of winning in a much more tangible fashion than simply choosing the heavy character for speed, mid-weight character for balance, and light character for acceleration. Do I focus on high speed and heavy weight and tear away from the pack early at the risk of low acceleration and slippery handling, or do I focus on tight handling and high acceleration so I can recover quickly from the chaos that always occurs at the beginning of a race? Choice like that deepens the experience for me. No longer do I have to pick Toad and wonder if I can outpace Bowser or Donkey Kong on the track. Now, I can speed past them with ease provided I’m willing to make some sacrifices.

In fact, that seems to be a theme with this game. The tracks feel like they have a lower margin for error when it comes to their shortcuts, and the AI is relentless enough on Mirror Mode that they’ll sabotage any chances you have at winning even at the cost of losing the race for themselves. Of course, when you do win, it’s downright euphoric, even more so when playing against real humans who will cut the track to pieces taking advantage of Golden Mushrooms and Stars to get that win. It’s that kind of desperation and unpredictability that defines the experience, and the slight additions to the series courtesy of this game has expanded that both vertically and horizontally. I maybe be hesitant to call this game the pinnacle of the series (it could stand to have even more customization options), but it’s definitely one of my favorites. I consider it an apology for the lackluster Mario Kart Wii, as well as a pseudo-return to form to a more manic, yet ultimately controllable racing experience.

But no Baby Mario or Luigi does sting a little, as does the omission of Baby Park from the retro track list. Oh well, maybe next time.

December 1, 2011

The Winner’s Circle

Filed under: NaNoWriMo '11,Writing — Prinnydood @ 3:39 pm

It may have been under the wire, but I can finally say that I finished NaNoWriMo! It’s been a crazy thirty days (only nineteen of which were actually filled with writing). I somehow managed to produce a sizeable story that I’m not completely embarrassed to look back on. Sure, it could use some polishing up, but those feverish days of writing in the final stretch may take the cake as some of my best (and worst) work, if I do say so myself. Something about putting an axe to the grindstone and racing to beat a deadline always seems to bring out the best (and worst) in me and I’m not surprised to see that this time was no different.

If I had to look back on this month and point out one thing I learned it would be that going through NaNoWriMo has proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is always time for me to sit down and write something every day. I’ve always looked at it as something I did whenever I had time instead of something I made time for. It feels pretty great to come to that realization. So great that I should make time to actually sit down and write something every day, lest my recuperated writing ability fester into the unusable husk it became at the tail end of summer.

I should have expected this, but even after 50,000 words of writing, this tale I’ve come up with still isn’t done yet—nowhere near done, in fact. I seem to have this affliction where I start wildly spinning ideas in my head as I write and before I know it, I’ve got this behemoth of a story staring me down. Normally this leads to me shelving the project because of the sheer amount of work I know will go into completing it, and I won’t discount the chance that it could very well happen this time as well. But I’m feeling pretty energized after writing so much and as of this moment, I’m feeling up to continuing. Who knows how long I’ll last, maybe a week, a month, a year?

Setting a goal worked well to see me through NaNoWriMo this year, so I’ll have to come up with one moving forward as well. I’ll have to think on that. But right now, I’m ready to decompress and take a break from writing. Maybe after finals I’ll pick up this story where I left off. I’ve got the motivation to keep going (I didn’t even get to introduce main character #4 and she’s still quite a ways off), so let’s see if it’ll carry me through to a more thorough victory: an honest-to-goodness complete story.

November 11, 2011

The Record of Rodessia Excerpt #1

Filed under: NaNoWriMo '11,The Record of Rodessia,Writing — Prinnydood @ 4:43 pm

Here’s a little excerpt from my NaNoWriMo ’11 novel, The Record of Rodessia. You’ll have to excuse any typos you may find. Enjoy!

Looking out into the distance, Colin could only see the rolling meadow bend into the never-ending horizon. He was tapping his foot hard enough to kick up a light cloud of dust that caused irritating dirt particles to gather in his socks, but he didn’t notice. He simply continued to scan the horizon with his arms crossed, filtering out the pine trees that accented the plains, the massive rocks that influenced the stream’s flow, and the mountain range that gathered all of those disparate elements into one beautiful whole. The mountains encircling Corret Farmstead allowed for only one avenue of entry and exit, and that pathway was being watched mercilessly by the boy in anticipation of the arrival of a much-awaited letter.

Colin had long since stopped trying to fix his hair that was getting mussed up by the continual, yet light breeze that roiled within the farmstead. He didn’t care how he looked when the carrier pigeon arrived with his pen pal’s letter. He just wanted to have it in his hands. He just wanted to tear open the envelope and read it, then read it again, then a third time as had become the ritual for him for the last two years.

When the wind shifted towards him, he took it as a sign. Colin raised himself on his tiptoes and just as he did, he saw the tiny head of a bird poke up from the horizon, followed by the aggressive flapping of its tiny wings. He could have been a patient boy and waited for the letter to come to him, but bubbling over anticipation saw him launch from Corret Farmstead’s entrance and out to the bird.

The lynx statue sitting as the town’s sentinel observed him with its unblinking eyes as he jumped up to the bird and grabbed at the letter strapped to its leg. The bird was used to such an abrupt greeting and took the time to play around with Colin a bit, dangling the letter just out of the boy’s reach. If the pigeon had a mind to continue its game of keep away, Colin would have tossed a rock at it to get it down. Instead, the tiny letter carrier relented and lowered itself within reaching distance and endured a powerful tug to release the letter.

“I’ll bet Eden’s been telling you to do that,” Colin said to the bird. The pigeon chirped in a manner that was meant to absolve it of all guilt, but Colin read through it and shook his head dismissively. “No,” he began with a musing tone, “this was all your idea, wasn’t it?” The pigeon landed on Colin’s shoulder and tilted its head to the side as if to say it were ready to drop the conversation altogether.

Colin held Eden’s letter in two outstretched hands and let out the wide smile he had been holding back. “She said in her last letter that today would be the day,” Colin said. He tore open the envelope and unfolded the paper enough for even the pigeon to see. He made his way back to Corret Farmstead as he read the letter aloud.

Dear Colin,

It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? Sorry I haven’t been sending you as many letters as usual, but things have been a bit hectic at home while we prepare for your arrival. I know you must be excited because I certainly am! Mom and Dad won’t say it out loud, but I’m sure they can’t wait to have you join our family during your apprenticeship. In fact, Dad has been cleaning the forge all day to get it in decent condition. You know… first impressions and all that.

Anyway, I have to keep this brief because we’re still preparing, but by the time you get this letter, Dad and I should be on our way over to pick you up. This’ll be my first time on a ship, so I hope I don’t get seasick… I hope you don’t either! I’d hate for your first cross-country trip to be ruined by an upset stomach. Mom packed us some aromatics that she says should ward off any seasickness. She made extra sure to pack a bunch just in case… maybe too much, now that I think about it.

Oh, but I’m rambling on now. …Dad’s looking at the letter now. He just said he wanted me to keep it short, so I’ll have to cut it here. We’ll finish this conversation in person, okay?


Colin couldn’t help but realize just how neat Eden’s handwriting had gotten since they had started sending letters to each other. He flashed his own rather bland handwriting in his mind and winced. It wasn’t unreadable, but it wasn’t as near-elegant as Eden’s. Colin passed by the lynx statue and into the village, wondering what Eden thought of his handwriting. It seemed like a small thing to dwell on, but like her father, he wanted to make a good impression on her since he would be spending so much time in her company for the foreseeable future. He wondered if he had already sabotaged that opportunity by not improving his script at all, which made him begin to dread Eden’s arrival.

He distracted himself from the thought by taking in Corret Farmstead as a whole for the final time. As he walked on top of the wooden bridge that led into the village, he made sure to step on them in such a sequence that they would creak out a primitive tune. He chuckled to himself, thinking about how much trial and error went into perfecting what amounted to a horrid jingle. A line of moss-covered longhouses funneled travelers in, atop of which was the morning’s light snowfall. It had a tendency to slide off of the shoddy pine-needle topped roofs and onto passersby, a phenomenon Colin experienced when he was nearly buried as he passed by one on his way to his house.

Their doors pointed towards Corret Farmstead’s namesake, an expanse of fertile land currently being tended to by a number of the residents. Their output was nothing spectacular, but it was enough to make a few extra crowns with the extra haul they weren’t forced to either eat or store for the winter months. Colin could hear the stable animals causing a raucous as one of the farmers went through the taxing job of separating mother chickens from their next of kin and extracting the milk from the paltry few cows that hadn’t succumbed to the unusually hot summer they had just experienced.

November 6, 2011

NaNoWriMo ’11 – Week 1

Filed under: NaNoWriMo '11,Writing — Prinnydood @ 1:26 pm

Well, NaNoWriMo started this Tuesday. This is the month I’ve been preparing for since way back in May when I made this post explaining my utter failure from last year. I didn’t quite follow through with doing all of those analyses I said I would (because I got lazy when I got to the world-building part), but I did build on the premise I mentioned a while ago.

At first, I was just kicking it around in my head and writing down anything that I happened to think about for the first three or so months. But as NaNoWriMo drew ever closer, I figured I needed to actually sit down and bang out some concrete details if I didn’t want to end up like last year and go in underprepared. But then, as I worked out a plot, I found that it lacked that emotional investment that would make it stand out and have a bigger impact. It’s kind of hard to care for the remnants of a world if you weren’t there to see it being saved, isn’t it? So, I wisely started dreaming up a mini-plot for the actual world-saving part and, as I should have expected, things went wildly out of control. That “little” plot ended blowing up into something that couldn’t be summed up in a mere prologue. At two weeks before NaNoWriMo was set to begin, I decided I had to write that part out first before delving into the meat of the story. Maybe that was a wise decision, or maybe it was a stupid one, I’ll most likely find out when the calendar flips to December 1.

As far as the actual writing goes, well, take a look to the right and you’ll (hopefully, I’m not sure what’s up with Saturday’s box. That was my most productive day with over 3000 words written) see five green boxes spread out over the first week. I’m doing much, much better than I was last year. I’m so surprisingly far ahead that I can’t even believe it. I’m thinking that’s a function of how much I want to see this story play out so I can get to the more interesting part later on. So far, that enthusiasm is carrying me to much higher daily word counts than is necessary. I’m averaging 2500 words per day, no mean feat given the colossal amount of other things I have to do every day.

The only thing that’s bugging me right now is my writing style. It’s very heavy on narration and comparatively light on actual dialogue. This is giving me a nagging feeling that nothing of any merit is actually happening. Couple that feeling with the fact that my dialogue is pretty poor and you can see why this would be a serious problem. The main characters haven’t come together yet, so I’m hoping that’s the reason for it. I’m itching to get to some banter (or just flat out scathing dialogue) between them and feel that is one thing I can write well. The good thing is that I’m being forced to stretch my narrative abilities pretty far.

As I move into week 2, I’m going to try and keep up my blistering pace. According to my stats page, I’ll be done by November 19 if I keep it up. Seeing how Super Mario 3D Land comes out on November 13, I’d do well to get a good head start. I’m also thinking about filling out this month’s updates with some excerpts from my story. If parts of it aren’t embarrassingly bad, I may do that.

October 12, 2011

Christine has broken me

Filed under: Christine,Cujo,Reading,The Shining — Prinnydood @ 3:09 pm

Only a man with a strong patience and an iron will can stomach sifting through the long-winded prose of Christine with its boring characters and go-nowhere plot, and I am not ashamed to admit I am not among those men. I tried to give it its due, I truly did, but I wanted more story from it quicker than it was willing to deliver. It’s a shame, because I hate dropping books before I’ve finished them. In fact, worryingly enough, this makes the second Stephen King novel I’ve dropped partway through. The first was Insomnia, but that was because I had picked up Rose Madder, shortly after and tore through that book instead. I should probably get back to that one when I have the time.

But not now, because I just started into Cujo a couple of nights ago. I haven’t gotten all that far into it, but what I have read is quite good. It’s got its hooks into me in a way that Christine failed to do: getting to the mystery right away and dispensing with the overwrought characterization. It’s something Stephen King consistently stumbles with. Yes, I understand you want to paint your characters as everymen while you meticulously describe the weirdoes they come across as sexually frustrated old men who kill women because they have a sick, depraved fetish or some such thing, but it doesn’t need to take up a handful of pages to do so. Rose Madder largely avoids this pitfall and it was a better book because of it. From the looks of things, Cujo is set to follow in the same footsteps.

Unfortunately for Cujo, it commits the unforgivable sin of not including chapter breaks. It seems like a minor thing, but for someone like me who prefers to digest a book slowly over the course of a couple of months, chapter breaks are a good way for me to measure out my pace. Having to rely on scene transitions is a clumsy way to handle that and it irks me to no end. The other thing is that this mimics another of King’s books, Dolores Umbridge, which also lacked definitive chapters. It was the story of a woman who recounted how she murdered her husband and the lack of breaks in-between scenes made it feel like she was rambling on and on—which she was, naturally—instead of telling a properly structured story.

Cujo hopefully won’t fall into that trap. It’s made too good of a first impression on me for it to fall apart like Dolores Umbridge did. Maybe it’ll even dethrone Rose Madder as my favorite Stephen King story if it keeps up the momentum and suspense it’s built up so far. It’ll need all the help it can get because after I’m finished with it, The Shining is next. I’m pretty anxious to get to that one.

October 10, 2011

Prediction Time

Filed under: Mega Man Powered Up,Video Games — Prinnydood @ 3:54 pm

I’ve been playing way too much Mega Man Powered Up over these last three weeks—way too much. My completion percentage is sitting somewhere around 40-45% right now because I just haven’t been able to keep myself from playing the game over and over again with each of the characters. If I had to wager, I’d say that, given that it takes me anywhere from an hour to an hour-and-a half to complete the game depending on which difficulty I’m doing, I’m nearing thirty hours of play time. And if I had to make another wager, I’d say that only five of those hours were aggressively unfun. Some of that is because of the characters I used, but a good portion of it is because of a little thing called Hard Mode.

Obviously, Hard Mode is supposed to be difficult or it wouldn’t properly earn its namesake, but I feel like the developers completely missed the point, dropped the ball, crashed and burned, and whatever other metaphor you care to mention when it comes to making Hard Mode a natural extension of Normal Mode. In order to illustrate my point, let’s look at a breakdown of the three modes.

Easy Mode is for those players that want to dip their toe into the Mega Man experience, so to speak. Enemies are largely lethargic obstacles to be avoided, not adversaries to be toppled. They don’t make much of an effort to deal damage to Mega Man and when they do, it’s negligible. The bosses have their most challenging attacks scaled way back or excised altogether and they flinch nearly every time they take damage, making stun-locking them the fast track to an easy win. Add to that the addition of what I like to call mercy blocks throughout the stages’ most difficult platforming segments and the complete removal of Wily Machine Number 1’s second form and you can see why successfully playing through without breaking stride can net you a completion time that’s just shy of an hour. I should know because I’ve run through it no less than fifteen times. This mode is good if you just want to have a romp through the stages while listening to their excellent music without fear of death.

Normal Mode is essentially a tweaked version of the original game to make it infinitely more playable, yet retain the same amount of challenge. All enemies act as they normally would and mercy blocks have been removed. The only thing worthy on mentioning here is that the Robot Masters have been given a special attack, but they’re easy enough to react to or outright neutralize.

Hard Mode is where the proverbial difficulty train flew off the rail and slammed into the brick wall that is my patience, showering the area with its atrocious design decisions. In a nutshell, where Normal Mode was conceived so that the player would have to utilize reaction time and a good amount of skill to be victorious, Hard Mode demands the same amount of skill, yet also asks of the player an obscene amount of prediction time—that being you have to guess what’s going to happen, then react, whereas you’d normally see what happens and then react.

One of Hard Mode’s biggest problems is that enemy locations weren’t scrambled to account for their advanced abilities. Killer Bullets now home in on Mega Man when they get close, Foot Holders return to their random movement patterns from the NES game and can shoot horizontally, and Big Eyes can jump the length of the screen and do so at an increased speed, among other things. Individually, those wouldn’t be too difficult to work around, but in typical Mega Man fashion, you’re dealing with those tweaks as well as the parade of other things that want little Mega Man to explode into shiny blue orbs.

Perhaps Hard Mode’s most egregious failing is that it lacks the harmony that Normal Mode does. Like with Easy Mode, once you’ve run through the game a few times, you can come pretty close to making a beeline for the boss at the end of the stage without breaking stride. Hard Mode doesn’t leave any room for this. The utter chaos on display in each level is as baffling as it is hostile to the player. Trust me, after you’ve died for the fifth time because the Foot Holders in Ice Man’s stage wouldn’t line up properly for you to thread Mega Man through their shots while simultaneously lining him up to land on the next platform, you’ll swear the game is sustained by nothing more than your anguish. That’s the same kind of “difficulty” the NES Mega Man employed and it wasn’t any more balanced then as it is now.

Every time there’s an element of Hard Mode that’s done right (with the highlights being the Robot Masters and Wily Castle bosses who manage to subvert expectations without being impossibly difficult), there’s a head-bashingly stupid, and frankly unfair, way the game was made more difficult. Why not remix the stages again and work the new enemy patterns into that design instead of taking a hammer to the square peg that is the Hard Mode enemies and trying to force it into the round hole that is the Normal Mode stage design? That would have gone a long way towards making Hard Mode feel like it was inspired by Normal Mode instead of hobbled together and hastily duct-taped onto it.

There’s no way I’ll ever hope to complete Hard Mode with the characters that don’t emulate Mega Man in some way. It’s a shame that the game wasn’t altered to account for each Robot Master in general, but at least Normal Mode is doable with each of them—provided you can react instead of predict what’s going to happen. I’m more than happy to call the game done when I complete Normal Mode with all of the characters and save Hard Mode for when I’m feeling up to surmounting an impossible challenge.

No, wait, that’s what Challenge Mode is for. Sorry, Hard Mode!

October 7, 2011

Point of No Return

Filed under: NaNoWriMo '11,Writing — Prinnydood @ 3:57 pm

When I signed up for a profile on the NaNoWriMo website, I knew that it was both an irrevocable act and a sign that I would have to stick with the lofty task of writing 50,000 words in the month of November for the long haul. I was a little apprehensive at the thought and perused the site for some tips when I came across a gallery of Widgets which I’m assuming were designed to both humiliate and motivate. Two such Widgets now sit on the right edge of the site; they keep track of the total words I’ve written so far and measure how well my average words-written-per-day is. In essence, I’m broadcasting my progress for all to see as a way to keep me on track. Internet shame isn’t all that big of a deal to me, but if, come December, those Widgets aren’t flashing with the green of success (or whatever they do when you actually succeed, I don’t know), they’ll be a silent reminder of my failure.

But I’m thinking there’s very little chance of that, and that’s because I have this… thing about seeing numbers go up and watching bars go higher and higher into the stratosphere. Why do you think I play so many RPGs? I played Final Fantasy XIII with the hopes of seeing the low, white numbers merely rising over the enemies’ heads eventually turn into incredibly large, golden numbers spilling forth from their confused and damaged bodies and did everything possible to make it so. If I’m willing to go through skull-crushing tedium in the name of seeing numbers go up, I’m confident I can sit and write for two hours a day and marvel at my word count going up.

Yeah, those looming sentinels displaying my progress don’t sound so bad after all.

October 6, 2011

Look who’s finally got a moment to make a blog post

Filed under: NaNoWriMo '11,Video Games,Writing — Prinnydood @ 3:38 pm

Yes, after completely missing the month of September (and not for a lack of trying) I can finally take a moment and compose something worthy of posting. The truth of the matter is that I’ve either been incredibly busy with school, or simply had nothing of merit to talk about. But one of those situations has changed (and it’s not the school one). The usual summer drought has given way and I actually had a reason to spend some money on video games for the first time in months.

Among the games I picked up are the incredibly inventive and infectiously cute Kirby Mass Attack and the charmingly pun-filled and comfortingly familiar Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 along with a bevy of Virtual Console games for my 3DS, including the ten free NES games gifted to me for buying the handheld on day one. The game I’m having the most fun with is without a doubt Mega Man Powered Up, a game I stupidly sold a couple of years back because I grew bored with making levels. But now, after going through the eight main Mega Man games over the summer and a spattering of other ones throughout the year, I seem to have reawakened that piece of myself that enjoys the masochistic gameplay endemic to the series and will most likely play the game to death. And luckily for me, Capcom was awesome and bundled the game with Mega Man Maverick Hunter X, which would have been the first game for my PSP had a certain fighting game franchise from Capcom not been available at the same time. I’m running through Powered Up on Easy Mode right now with all of the Robot Masters before I step it up to Normal and Hard Modes. I could—and most likely will—gush on and on or complain endlessly about how each of them plays in the near future.

The other thing I’ve been busy with is NaNoWriMo. I realize I flaked out of the articles I was writing, but the truth of the matter is the next topic I was going to tackle was world building and, to put it succinctly, I’m terrible at it. I’d hate to be a pretentious hack and try to pick apart the proper procedure it takes to build a good setting when I can’t even do it myself. Maybe I’ll just document how I’m faring right now and pick that apart instead. I’ve been tinkering with my story over these last few months, and I’ve seen my share of highs and lows while crafting the setting, so I’m hoping I’ll be successful when NaNoWriMo kicks off in about four weeks.

But even more than that, I need to get back to writing in general. The very last post I made should more than explain why that didn’t happen much at all in September. But if I get into the habit now, I’ll be used to it by next month when I really need it.

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