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    Feb 23rd, 2007 at 14:08:07     -    Gradius (NES)

    Last Minute Gradius Gamelog Zwei!

    So, Gradius is still hard. I've gotten better at it, though. I've now experienced all of the powerups, and made it through level 1 without dying once. Still havn't beaten level 2. However, a lot of my playing this game feels like it's less "for fun" as it is "showing the game who's boss" (which, in this case, is the game. But it beats me and I come back for more, so what am I to say?)

    So, the last two powerups, the "Option", and the "?". Option adds a second (or third, if you get it twice) point of fire from your ship in the form of an energy ball following it. These balls seem to follow your movement directly, so if you move forward or backward, the balls will fire in the exact same area as you, which is rather useless. I prefer the more modern convention of "stays on either side" or "circles around your ship". And then there's "?". I do not know why it is called "?", but it is a shield. With it active, your ship can actually take a hit. Several in fact, although I couldn't really count how many. Useful effect, if expensive.

    I didn't get far enough into level 2 to see the boss, but the level design is a lot more interesting than level 1. You have to go through different tunnel like sections (instead of one large tunnel), and destroy blockades in your way.

    Also, something I did not quite get the hang of fast enough was some kind of bonus level after beating stage one without dying once. It consisted of speeding up incredibly and dodging outlines of easter island heads. It was a challenge, and too much for me (so I failed and it sent me to stage 2).

    All in all... the game is not incredibly fun. It is, however, incredibly challenging (but beatable). The level design for the second stage was interesting, but otherwise... eh. It isn't my style.

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    Feb 23rd, 2007 at 11:07:20     -    Gradius (NES)

    Last minute Gradius write-up part one!

    So, for this week I've chosen to play Gradius. And I learned something incredibly important right off the bat: I am terrible at horizontal shooters. Vertical ones, too, but there's kind of a difference. Most of the time, I can't dodge for beans. I suppose I might just have the wrong kind of reflexes for it.

    That being said, I beat the first level. Not the second, no, just the first. Not even five enemies -into- the second, in fact. I took five or six tries to beat the first stage, and then died to the power-up enemies in the start of the second.

    But let's take a look at what I encountered, why don't we? First off, the power-up system.: I don't exactly have a manual (got the game from a friend), so I may just be mis-interpreting it, but it involves collecting powerups that drop from enemy groups, and for each powerup you collect, the slot on the powerup bar moves forward one. You can then press B to select that power-up and gain its effects. The only ones I actually managed to get were "speed up", which speeds the character up allowing for easier dodging... and crashing into things, "missile", which causes the ship to launch a missile towards the bottom of the screen, and if it hits "land", it will slide along it until it hits something, "double", which causes a second shot to come out of the ship towards the ceiling, and "laser", which changes the regular shot into a faster and possibly piercing laser (I did not get much of a chance to experiment). It should be noted that both double and laser will overwrite one another, so the player cannot have a double laser from their ship.

    As for the enemies, they follow set patterns that the player can memorize and exploit, while firing slow moving bullets at the player's ship. I, of course, would lose track of these bullets while focusing on dodging and shooting enemies, and wind up dying. One part that I do not like is that at some points, enemies can come from behind you, which is something I don't see much in vertical shooters (which I play more often).

    The first boss confused me a bit. It has a core that changes color when taking enough damage, while it moves up and down and fires four lasers. Now, it has a hole in the front between the laser cannon things, so I figured that I might need to shoot it there in order to kill it, but one of my "double" shots that came from below it was the thing that did the trick. I suppose the limits of the NES are why this wasn't more precise (and hard), or perhaps it wasn't a convention to have specific boss weak points until after Gradius. I believe I might discover the answer should I ever reach the second boss, but I do not see that happening, even in my second play session.

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    Feb 9th, 2007 at 02:10:38     -    The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess (Wii)

    Twilight Princess Part Two-eth.

    So, I finished the Water Temple, got some story segments, and went through the Sacred Grove forest maze. What, you want more? Okay.

    So, the Water Temple continued pretty much as normal (Clawshot, Water Bombs, Zora Armor, etc.) up until the final two bits. I needed to find the boss chamber key, and in order to do so I needed to navigate my way through a complex water-filled room. It may just be my feelings caused by a friend telling me to check elsewhere (he had beaten the temple), but the area to continue was simply too hard to find. The minimap did not help at all, and that area simply felt like poor design.

    The final bit, however, more than made up for this frustrating part. The boss was simply cool. The idea was to use the Clawshot to get a floating ball out of a gelatinous thing and attack it. If my memory serves me correctly, this is how it was in Ocarina of Time and Link to the Past as well. Then things got interesting. After three iterations of the simple task... the creature came out of the ground. It was a giant monster eel. I then had to take off the Iron Boots that got me nicely on the ground to use my sword and swim alongside it, to Clawshot the eye that was now embedded into the creatures back. This brought up a section where Link rides the creature and slashes at the eye. Gamplay wise, this was kind of boring and repetitive (Clawshot, swing the wiimote a bit, rinse, repeat). Cinematically, however, these segments were -awesome-. It just filled me, the gamer, with an intense sense of "cool".

    So then, having beaten the boss I was transported to a light spirit's grotto (in the story, these were locked away by Zant, a shadowy wizard, plunging the land into Twilight. Before now, this was all we really knew). Then, as the three items I had spent the time collecting were finally going to be used... Zant appeared and smacked around both me, my partner (Midna), -and- the Light Spirit. There was, for the first time really yet in the game, some plot exposition, and I was transformed back into a wolf (Link's form in "Twilight"). The story itself seemed fairly generic before, incredibly similar to most of the other Zelda games, but here it started taking a twist. As a wolf, I then had to sneak past the citizens of Hyrule Castle Town to the castle and reach Princess Zelda, both to restore myself and to restore Midna (who was wounded in the plot confrontation). Then something shocking happened. But, as it is a major spoiler and I am not sure how to do spoiler text in GameLog, I will refrain. Suffice to say, it's more interesting than anything that's happened in a previous Zelda game.

    Since Zelda could only help Midna, I was told to seek out the Master Sword to transform myself back into a human. To get there, I had to go through a forest maze. Personally, these have always been my least favorite parts of Zelda games, be it Ocarina of Time's or Link to the Past's, it always feels more frustrating than it is worth. You have to run through several areas looking for the proper area where the creature you're chasing is playing music (you can only really tell by the noise), and then eventually track it down to a boss fight. Here was also frustrating, as you can only damage the creature when it is playing music, but nothing actually gives you that hint. So, I spent five minutes swiping at a teleporting creature. Afterwards, I had to do another puzzle, probably the most annoying one so far in the game. You have to navigate two statues that go in opposite directions around to reach two specific squares on a grid. But, you are also on the grid, and as it is weirdly shaped you cannot always move. I was trapped accidentally twice, and once straight up crushed by one of the statues I had to guide.

    Afterwards, I got the Master Sword and gained the ability to transform back and forth between human and wolf forms at will. Aside from a fun Clawshot based minigame (you had to pull yourself around a cage to collect glowing orbs) which was fast paced and amusing, I stopped to write this.

    I suppose the one thing that I haven’t even mentioned yet is the controls. Controls are always important, and this is no exception. The player moves, locks on, and looks around using the nun chuck, while they use the trigger button on the wiimote for items and swing the wiimote to attack. The central "A" button puts things away. In all, it's pretty intuitive and fun, as well as easy to use, but as I am used to button based controls after so many years of gaming, I often find myself mixing the controls around. Sometimes, I put away my sword when I should be using it, for example. However, I feel that someone not as immersed as I (and more willing to use the wiimote) would not have this problem as much. In fact, my aforementioned friend does not have this same problem I do, so I suppose it is personal preference. It is also fun to use the wiimote to aim, as well as attack. It feels natural.

    In any case, after these two hours of play (despite some frustrating bits at the end), the game still feels incredible, and is a great example of what the Wii can do.

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    Feb 8th, 2007 at 23:28:15     -    The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess (Wii)

    Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess GameLog One-eth.

    Today, I will be examining LoZ:TP. It is a highly rated game for the Wii, and it pretty well deserves it. I've been playing the game for almost a week now, and was about fourteen hours in when I started today.

    I started today having gotten the Zora Armor, which allows link to breath and swim well underwater. This was after some important plot stuff involving freeing the Zora from ice, but that's all prior to this. I then freed a Goron from a lava rock for a third bomb bag, then did a boating minigame on the path to the Water Temple (the next story segment). In completing the minigame, my bomb bags were all upgraded to large bomb bags, doubling my carrying capacity. I then went into the water temple and fought (as well as puzzle solved) my way through to the mid-boss, beat it, and received the Clawshot. I am now paused a few Clawshot puzzles afterward.

    In looking at the gameplay, let us first look at the Zora Armor. Normally, water is an obstacle to Link. He cannot properly swim underwater, and when wearing heavy iron boots to walk on the bottom he cannot breathe. With the Zora Armor, Link gains the ability to dive underwater and use a full 3-D set of movement. As well, it allows you to swim quickly, thus lowering travel time. However, I have been having some trouble swimming upwards or downwards properly, and so I feel that the mechanics there could be slightly improved.

    Next, there is the boating minigame. In this, you must alternate paddling against current to avoid walls and shooting at targets with Bomb Arrows. The Bomb Arrow itself is an interesting item in TP, as Link literally ties a bomb to an arrow and fires it to hit faraway bomb able objects. Its unique versatility makes me enjoy its addition in this game (as such an item never appeared in previous Zeldas).

    And now, onto the Water Temple. At first, the player has Bomb Arrows, Water Bombs, the Zora Armor, and Iron Boots at his disposal, and thus the puzzles are centered around these. The entrance to the temple itself is a puzzled, as the player must water bomb open an underwater air-jet, and then let another bomb rise with it to blow open the temple's entrance. In the temple itself, the player needs to alternate swimming and walking (with the Iron Boots) underwater. Then there are puzzles involving stalactites that must be blown off the ceiling to create platforms to continue. Along with pulling switches and finding keys, as well as the occasional jumping puzzle, the temple continues mostly like this until reaching the Mid-Boss.

    Part of what makes Zelda interesting is the enemies. Unlike some games, where you beat everything by smashing it over and over while some are harder, often defeating enemies themselves is a puzzle. For example in the Water Temple, there are clams underwater that cannot be defeated by vertical sword slashes, and must be taken out by a horizontal slash while the mouth is open. There are armored boars that the player must dodge and then slash from behind. There are invulnerable gel-blobs that need to be blown up to take out their riders. And the Mid-Bosses are no exception. The Mid-Boss of the water temple is a giant enemy frog. It can launch piranhas (or Skullfish) from its back, which Link must defeat. It then leaps into the air and attempts to squish Link. The first time it did this, I was too slow and was momentarily crushed, and then had to defeat the Skullfish all over again. After dodging the frog drop, the player must attack its weak point, the tongue, in order to do damage. After enough hits, the frog gets back up and roars at the player. If the player simple watches, the pattern repeats. But the player has another option: shoot a bomb into the frog's mouth while it roars. It then collapses and can be attacked on the tongue again. After repeating this a few times, the frog coughs up the Clawshot and dies.

    The Clawshot is a fun item to use. Its main purpose is to get through area puzzles by grabbing onto targets or climbable vines and pull Link to them. However, it can also be used in battle. Against most enemies it simply pushes them a bit, which in itself is really only useful if there is a gap to knock the enemy down. However, it provides alternate ways to defeat some enemies. The armored pigs can have their armor torn off. The gel-blobs can have their rider pulled out. It is also the only way to defeat underwater jellyfish, by pulling out their cores.

    So far, all of these elements have come together to form a superb adventure game, full of fun action AND fun puzzles.

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