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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:56:01     -    No More Heroes (Wii)

    After an epic clash with the world’s #10 assassin, I was introduced to the pattern of gameplay that would follow for (I assume) the rest of the game. Basically, an agency was setting up these fights between the other ten assassins and I and after each fight, I had to earn money for the next one. When not going into a fight, I could freely drive around the town on a motorcycle in order to go job searching or to buy items and upgrades. After earning enough money for the next fight (by doing anything from lawn mowing to bumping off pizza chain CEOs) I had to go through a level filled with lesser enemies and one boss just like before. I think this system, however repetitive, worked very well. Although going to lawn mowing after taking down a world class assassin is a huge drop in excitement, it is nice to have a break from the constant slew of enemies coming at you.

    In fact, doing odd jobs while being a world level assassin just shows what a strange character Travis is. He’s a top killer living in a motel with his kitty and hundreds of anime figurines and keeps his hi-tech, highly destructive, beam katanas in a drawer under his bed. He is a total slob, an incurable nerd, and not very smart, yet he has an ego the size of Jupiter and is going on a massive killing spree just so he can say that he is #1. Despite all of the violence, the game is very clearly comedic. The goofy Travis interacting with cold-blooded assassins and criminal organizations makes for some hilarious scenarios. Even decapitating someone in this game can be funny as they scream “AAAUUGH MY SPLEEN!!!” after their head has already been cut off.

    It’s obvious many of the design elements in this game had inspirations. There is the obvious “Star Wars” influence with the beam katana. With influences like that along with professional wrestling, anime, and classic video games, it is quite clear that this game was designed for (and very likely by) fanboys. Visually, the combat looks like anything you would see in an elaborate sword fight from “Star Wars” or “Kill Bill”, Travis makes heavy use of intricate and complicated suplexes, everyone wears over-the-top anime style clothes, and Travis himself is a fanboy (which can easily be seen since his room was designed with lots of posters and more video games and figurines than one would hazard to fit in such a small living space).

    The level design stayed pretty diverse despite each level basically being a series of rooms to be cleared of enemies. Each mission took place in a distinct environment with it’s own visual style (I went through a mansion, a stadium, a high school, a movie studio, and a beach). However, what made each level really stand out was the bosses. No two bosses look, behave, talk, or fight alike. One boss was a big beefy man in a superhero suit who fought with lasers and liked to take cheap shots, another was a disgruntled schoolgirl with an old-school katana and an afro who attacked with great agility, and another was an army woman with one leg who would dig holes for me to fall in and then proceeded to toss grenades in before I could climb out. Designing each boss to be completely unique was a great move since the story is essentially about killing each one of them and it makes the player curious about who he is going to be put up against next.

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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 00:52:48     -    No More Heroes (Wii)

    If “No More Heroes” for the Wii has a genre, then it is whatever Grand Theft Auto is, only with a beam katana (lightsaber) and motion controls. You play as Travis Touchdown, a professional assassin who is ranked #11 of the world’s top killers. Rather than honored, he is infuriated that he is not #1 and sets out to kill the other ten and ascend to “world’s top killer”.

    The game immediately launched me into a mission with minimal plot, and an optional tutorial. I discovered right away that this was not the typically cutesy family Wii game. Blood spewed forth from my enemies like geysers as I dismembered them, decapitated them, and cut them clean in half. It was oddly refreshing to have absurd amounts of blood and gore in a Wii game. Especially after having to put up with the happy, magic, shiny, fun-time of Mario Galaxy. Rather than being constantly being surrounded by adorable critters, I was now in a “Kill Bill” type universe where some guy was going down a list of people and turning one after another into high-powered blood fountains.

    Another nice deviation from standard Wii games was the absence of abundant reliance on motion controls. I am sure the developers were tempted to have the sword attacks be controlled by “waggling” the remote, but instead they have the basic attacks controlled by a button and reserve motion controls just for the finishing blow or for wrestling moves. Being able to make one big slice with the remote at the end of a combo to watch your enemies explode like water balloons filled with red paint is actually a lot more gratifying than constantly waving around the remote for each hit of the entire combo. Another nice touch is that the remote has to be sliced in a certain direction rather than just nonchalantly flicked just to register a movement.

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    Feb 21st, 2008 at 00:05:24     -    Wii Sports (Wii)

    Wii baseball was too tricky for my tastes. The timing for batting was much harder than in tennis. It was rare that I would hit the ball, let alone hit a fair ball. Pitching, on the other hand, was much easier (although I suspect is one of the prime suspects for all of those wii remotes that end up going through the TV screen). Unfortunately, you don't score anything in baseball by pitching, so most of my games ended as 0 - 0 draws. Wii golf was just plain boring. After the mindless fun from all of the other games, having to calculate club power and angles and wind speed at a slow pace was kind of a drag.

    Just when I was about to get fed up with the trickiness of baseball and the boringness of golf, I was saved by the supreme glory that is Wii Boxing. The controls were amazingly intuitive. Instead of using buttons like in baseball and golf, everything was done with the motion sensors. And even though there was only one sensor in each hand, the game could tell when and where I was leaning and ducking along with punching. Not only were the controls easy and all around awesome, the game itself was really fun too! I was on a mission to beat the daylights out of any and all Mii's that the game could come up with and rise to the ranks of PRO. Unfortunately this mission I decided to put myself on was a rather distracting one and I Wii boxed my way into the sunset, and then the following sunrise. that might explain why I'm writing this entry so much later after the last one. Needless to say, my arms are killing me (and so is my roommate for keeping him up). Sadly, I never reached pro status. As with tennis, I had to start boxing pros before I could become one, and these guys were relentless.

    Wii Sports' simplicity, from art designs and gameplay designs, is what I think is its key to success. Visually, Wii Sports is somewhat minimalist. The levels are only the most basic professional sports arenas and don't have very much detail to them compared to modern sports games. This is just perfect, however, because it let's the player naturally and easily focus on the actual game itself. The characters themselves are possibly even more simple than the levels. In many cases, the characters were just a head and torso with floating arms. This design also helps to focus the attention of the player, this time on the location of the hands and sports equipment. While the characters are anything but detailed, the equipment is actually fairly realistic looking, which helps deepen the connection in the player's mind between the wii remote and the actual equipment.

    Anyone who knows about Nintendo's current strategy knows why there was a need to make Wii Sports so simplistic. Nintendo, rather than catering to hardcore gamers, decided to instead to market the Wii at casual gamers and people who have no idea how to play a video game. Since Wii sports came with the Wii for free, it is likely to assume that it would be the first thing on the Wii many people would play. With this in mind, Nintendo made it ridiculously easy to learn and even more ridiculously fun to play. Even if it is geared towards casual gamers and flat out non-gamers, hardcore gamers have something to do as well. Several training modes are available that function as score attack mini-games. Many of these require true mastery of the game for any decent score at all. If thats not enough of a challenge, then I suggest trying to go pro in something. I can assure you that will take lots of skill.

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    Feb 20th, 2008 at 03:04:14     -    Wii Sports (Wii)

    Wii Sports is a series of small sports games in which the players use the motion sensing feature of the wii remote to mimic motions that would be done in the real world versions of the simulated sports. The sports available are Tennis, Bowling, Baseball, Golf, and Boxing.

    The first sport I tried was tennis. The game was extremely intuitive since all you had to do was swing at the ball. It was extremely satisfying to actually be able to swing at something in a video game and get an actual jolt in my hand along with a loud "thwok" noise. This experience was made even cooler by having a cartoony version of myself on screen. The game itself was really simple. All the running was done automatically and I just needed to swing when the ball came to me. Apart from the extreme satisfaction of having so much sensory feedback to smacking the daylights out of a virtual tennis ball, the other thing that kept me hooked was the allure of getting my skill level to "pro" status. With each game I won, I was able to raise my skill level, and was henceforth presented with progressively more difficult opponents. Unfortunately, it got to the point where I had to start facing opponents who were already at pro level in order for me to reach their status. The pro level AI was extremely aggressive and unrelenting and I was no match for them. Sadly, I had to give up my dreams of becoming a Wii Tennis pro and I decided to move on to bowling.

    While bowling lacked the satisfying feedback from the remote that I had gotten with tennis, I was amazed at the feedback the remote was getting from me. The way I bowled in real life seemed to almost perfectly be translated into the game. It even picked up on this weird tendency I have where the ball kind of slides of to the side a little for reasons unbeknown to me. This sport too had a pro skill level that could be obtained. But since in bowling your score is not affected by anything an opponent does, my skill level rose based on my ability to consistently bowl well.

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    1Crazy Taxi (DC)Playing
    2Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (PC)Playing
    3No More Heroes (Wii)Playing
    4Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)Playing
    5Wii Sports (Wii)Playing


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