Posts from July, August, and September 2008.

September 26, 2008...  You Take My Self-Control

I'm feeling especially accomplished today, thanks to a project I finished last night.  There's never been a suitable controller for the Virtual Console games on the Wii, so I set out to change that by bringing the ultimate controller to Nintendo's latest game system.  I took a spare Saturn joypad, opened it, and removed some of the components, including the cable and the logic chip set in the center of the pad's printed circuit board.  Next, I connected a series of tiny wires to the traces where the chip had rested, and soldered the other ends of the wires to a connector.  After some invasive surgery on a cheap GameCube controller, I was left with this...

It doesn't look pretty, but let me tell you, it works!  I've given this a test run on a GameCube, and every button but the L and R triggers (which I haven't wired up on the GameCube controller yet) work perfectly.  That's a very good thing, but what's even better is that I can take this controller and adapt it for use with practically any other game existence.  Can you imagine Super NES games with Saturn-quality control?  Or, dare I make the suggestion, 3DO games that are actually playable?  I can now, and I vow to make that dream a reality!

In less self-congratulatory news, I bought the Wii version of Mega Man 9 on Monday, and it's been kicking my sorry butt for the rest of the week.  I'm planning a video review of this game for next Monday, but what I'll say right now is that the outrageous difficuty does detract from what could have been the all-time best game in the series.  As it is, it's still one of the highlights in the game's history... although Mega Man and Mega Man 2 will always be my personal favorites, Mega Man 9 impressed me more than the third game and is loads better than the fourth and fifth.  If you've got some spare Wii points, do yourself a big favor and spend them on this release.

Oh yeah, one more thing before I go.  Awesome NES is closing out the Ns with reviews of the Ninja Gaiden trilogy, as well as Nintendo World Championships, a triple shot of Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris that has become a hot commodity among collectors thanks to its extreme rarity.  Only a handful of these cartridges were made for a contest held by Nintendo nearly twenty years ago, making them worth thousands of dollars... or tens of thousands if you can find the coveted gold cartridges given to finalists!

September 15, 2008...  Crash of the Titan

Hey, I'm updating again!  Occasionally, anyway.

So, I just beat Mercenaries 2: World in Flames over the weekend.  People have been complaining a lot about the bugs in the game, but the one that really twists my last nerve in a knot is Mercs 2's uncanny knack for crashing just as I complete a side mission.  I could almost forgive this while playing the previous game, because it was designed for the original Xbox, and we all know how temperamental the Xbox 360's backward compatibility can be.  However, crashes in Mercenaries 2 are a lot harder to accept, since the game was tailor made for the Xbox 360.  Maybe I should forget about all the small fry I missed while playing through the story mode and just move on to Mass Effect...

Outside of that, I don't have too much to discuss.  The sequel to Rock Band was just released. Electronic Arts recently abandoned its repeated attempts to acquire its competitor Take-Two by force.  After months of being bested by the PSP, the DS Lite has finally risen to the top of the Japanese sales charts.  And there's a new installment of Awesome NES, featuring such titles as NightShade and NES Open Tournament Golf.  I guess that's it!  I'll talk to you later.

September 5, 2008...  Slightly Less Cranky Than Earlier

I don't really have much to say at the moment (and anything I did say would be a lot of emotionally charged, intensely personal drivel that would be best reserved for a LiveJournal post), but I do feel an obligation to update this site.  So here you go, folks... have some Nintendo DS Reviews, an update to Awesome NES, and a handful of videos.  I may have some commentary on the latest Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade games at a later date, but right now, this is as much as I can give you.

August 20, 2008...  I Get So Emotional, Baby

I need time away from the site.  At the moment, I need time away from everything.

August 10, 2008...  Oh Mickey, You're Not Fine

Mickey Mouse takes center stage in this installment of Awesome NES, with reviews of Mickey Mousecapades as well as two Disney-licensed educational titles.  The rodent mascot didn't shine until his first appearance on the Sega Genesis, but if you want to see what he was up to before he hit his stride, now's your chance!

These updates are getting shorter and shorter, aren't they?  It's almost like I've stopped caring...

August 5, 2008...  A Day on the Lynx

I guess it's time for me to update that pain in the ass site again... wait, is this thing on?  I mean, welcome back to The Gameroom Blitz, everyone!  This time, we've got the expected Awesome NES update along with a brand new video.  I'm putting the variety show format on hold until I've got enough RAM in my system to handle a more advanced video editing utility than Windows Movie Maker.  However, fans of classic gaming should be pretty happy with the Atari Lynx retrospective that I'm offering instead. 

Nothing else to report, folks.  I'll see you later.

July 28, 2008...  Enjoy the Silence

Sorry for the lack of updates, folks.  Right now, I just don't have anything to say.  However, there's a new Awesome NES update that may be of interest to you... it features the first four titles in the Mega Man series, as well as a handful of other games that are memorable for all the wrong reasons.

July 19, 2008...  Squeeze the Trigger

Do you like long-time Gameroom Blitz contributor John Roche?  Well, have a look at the site's latest feature, The Roche Gallery!  It's a series of reviews that trims the fat of ordinary video game criticism, leaving you with lean summaries of recent releases along with a simple binary rating.  Right now, there are just three reviews in the gallery, but knowing John, he'll be adding to the list shortly.

Also, Awesome NES has finally cracked the Ms with reviews of M.C. Kids (an exercise in cross promotion that oddly has nothing to do with MC Sporting Goods), Mach Rider, and that classic financial management simulation, M.U.L.E.  You're not going to find a lot of games like this one on the NES, and you'll be looking a long, long time before you find one with an iron-plated donkey in it!

All right, now to more important matters.  I like to think of myself as a video game historian, but even I have large gaps in my knowledge of the industry, thanks to personal tastes and a stubborn refusal to purchase some consoles.  Both factors contributed to my missing Chrono Trigger when it was first released on the Super NES in 1995.  I disliked that system more than was probably healthy, and I had a similar contempt for RPGs.  They've never been my favorite genre, but thirteen years ago, when I was younger and even less patient than I am today, I would have rather swallowed a grenade than spent countless bleary-eyed hours leveling up a party of pixelized pipsqueaks.

That was then.  The bitter battle between the Genesis and Super NES is long over, and classics like Grandia, Suikoden, and Panzer Dragoon Saga have made me more open to games that are heavy on exploration and light on action.  With my biases behind me and a modded Wii just itching to play Super NES games sitting in front of me, I felt that it was the right time to try Chrono Trigger and see what I've been missing.

It turns out that it was a lot!  RPGs are definitely not my area of expertise, but after sinking eighteen hours into the game, I can understand why gamers speak so highly of Chrono Trigger.  The time hopping storyline is ingenious and has a profound impact on the gameplay... after you've finished a few missions, you're sent to a hub where you can select any time period you like, with any combination of the party members you've recruited.  It doesn't offer as much freedom as, say, Oblivion, but it was nevertheless a step in the right direction for console RPGs, which had been stiflingly linear before Chrono Trigger's release.

Also, I'm a sucker for a realtime combat system, and Chrono Trigger comes pretty darned close to offering one.  The combat strikes me as an ancestor of Grandia's outstanding battles... the characters aren't racheted into place, and you've got to factor their onscreen positions into your strategy.  For instance, Chrono's Slash works especially well against a cluster of tightly packed enemies, while Lucca's Flame Toss can turn a row of foes into charcoal.  The battles aren't as satisfying or as strategically deep as the ones in Grandia, but you certainly can see the influence that Chrono Trigger had on that series.

I don't think you need me to recommend Chrono Trigger, as thousands of gamers have already beaten me to the punch.  However, this is the first RPG in a long, long time that I've thought about playing to completion... and it says a lot about the quality of a game when even players who shouldn't like it will gladly spend forty hours to finish it.

July 14, 2008...  Wait, They're Still Doing That E3 Thing?

Well, E3 is here again.  Here are some of the more interesting things that have happened at this year's event:

* Galaga Legions was announced as an Xbox Live exclusive.  Namco is calling this "the first true sequel to Galaga in twenty years," although judging from the early footage, I doubt that it deserves its place in that lineage.  It seems like the developers went way overboard with the huge swarms of enemies and massive firepower... the original Galaga was much more subtle than this!  However, I was wrong about Space Invaders Extreme, and I could be wrong about this.  Only time will tell.

* Sony CEO Howard Stringer (not to be confused with exploitative talk show host Jerry Springer) has been talking smack about the Nintendo Wii, calling it an "expensive niche game device" rather than acknowledging it as a competitor to the Playstation 3.  You might not be winning the console wars, Howie, but at least you're tops at being a sore loser!

* Speaking of the Wii, there's a new device on the horizon that will make the system's motion sensitive controller more accurate.  The peripheral connects to the bottom of the Wiimote and, according to the Wii Fanboy web site, "allows for more comprehensive tracking of a player's arm position and orientation."  Will it work with ordinary Wii titles, or just specially designed ones?  Inquiring minds want to know!

* Rumors persist that there will be a new Nintendo DS, without a Game Boy Advance cartridge slot.  Why would anyone buy a Nintendo DS with limited functionality?  The fact that it costs a lot less than the original or Lite models may have something to do with it.  IGN says a hundred dollars less, but the idea of a thirty dollar DS seems pretty far-fetched.

* Those Xbox 360 avatars shown on Joystiq were the real deal, and there's every indication that the Xbox 360 dashboard will receive a complete overhaul by the end of the year.  I've got mixed feelings about this... after all, if it's not broke, why fix it?  However, if Microsoft insists on making changes to the Xbox 360 experience, there's not a whole lot gamers can do to stop them.

* There's a new installment of Awesome NES!  Wait, that doesn't have anything to do with E3!

July 8, 2007...  My Big Fat Geek Wedding (also, Wii hacking fun)

I'm back!  I was really dreading the occasion at first, but now that it's all over, I must admit that I had a lot of fun at my brother's wedding.  It gave me a golden opportunity to get reacquainted with friends and family members I hadn't seen in nearly a decade.  Also, the ceremony was refreshingly original; a far cry from the stuffy traditional weddings you often see on television.  Finally, the reception was stocked with a wide assortment of excellent food and drink, including more beer and sangria than I, uh, probably should have consumed.  Damn you and your frothy, fruity flavor, Shock Top Belgian White ale!

Oh yeah, this is a video game web site, not my LiveJournal.  In that case, how's this do you?  Lately, I've been spending a lot of time getting my retro on with the Wii.  It's all thanks to the recent WAD Injector (tee hee) program that lets you insert your own games into Virtual Console channels.  Sure, there are homebrew emulators available for the system too, but they don't display games in 480p, which is pretty important if you're playing them on a high-definition television set.

The WAD Injector not only lets you play your favorite NES, Genesis, and Super NES games at the Wii's best available resolution, but gives you instant access to them.  There's no need to wade through a lot of confusing options... you just point the Wiimote at the appropriate channel, press the A button, and you're ready to roll.  The channels don't accurately reflect the games they play, instead displaying the games that used to be inside them, but it's a small inconvenience that's easily ignored.

The lone drawback of the WAD Injector (aside from shaky compatibility and legal issues) is that the save states in Virtual Console channels aren't nearly as convenient as those in homebrew emulators.  The Wii does save your position in games when you quit them, but you can't use save states to power your way through difficult titles like Bionic Commando. 

This could be a damning flaw or a blessing in disguise, depending on your outlook.  Without convenient save states, it'll take you a whole lot longer to finish games.  At the same time, your accomplishments seem more significant without this crutch.  It took me hours and hours to beat Bionic Commando, but once I finally blew away Hitl-er, Master D and escaped with Super Joe, I felt like I earned that victory.

All right, that ought to do it.  Enjoy the latest Awesome NES, folks.  This time, the focus is on Legend of Zelda... along with a bunch of other games that probably don't matter as much to you.

July 2, 2008...  I Always Cry at Weddings (and while watching bad Flash toons)

I'll be attending my brother's wedding in a couple of days and will be out of the house for a while, so I guess I'd better leave you something to read while I'm gone.  Fortunately, contributor John Roche has come to the rescue with a review of Total Drama Island, which I gather is some kind of really horrible animated reality show.  A word to Hollywood... the terms "animated" and "reality" are exclusive terms.  Come to think of it, the words "reality" and "television" don't even belong in the same sentence.

Also up for grabs is an Awesome NES update, the first in a week.  This one is built to last, with reviews of The Last Action Hero, The Last Ninja, and The Last Starfighter.  Then there's the summary of the extra, extra, extra long adventure game Legacy of the Wizard, and a dated reference to night club fires in the Legend of the Ghost Lion review.

Finally, there's the latest video.  Would you believe it took me three days to finish this?  Not just three days, but nearly three solid days of work.  Hopefully it will have been worth all the effort, but I have a funny feeling that it's going to be ignored in favor of some dumbass screamer shouting about how much some game sucks.  Oh well, that's YouTube for you...