Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I was reading some old Penny Arcade comics during lunch, and came across this one:

I will be picking up Metroid Prime 3 tonight, and I have a bad feeling that I may have a similar experience... and yes, I stupidly pre-ordered it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wii Virtual Console Wishlist Part 2: Soul Blazer

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of my favorite games of all time. Since it's release on the Virtual Console, I have played through the whole game twice, finishing it the second time in about 7 hours. LttP was released in April of 1992 for the SNES, and after playing through it more times than I can recall, I quickly became hungry for another game that follows a similar formula. The game I ended up finding was Soul Blazer.

Soul Blazer was released in December, 1992 for the SNES. It was developed by Quintet and published by Enix. It is the spiritual sequel to ActRaiser, also on the SNES, and both are considered part of the "Soul Blazer series." While ActRaiser and Soul Blazer share a lot of the same gameplay elements, and one of the main characters even share the same name between both games, Soul Blazer is not considered a true sequel. 1994's Illusion of Gaia is considered the 3rd in the "Soul Blazer series", but once again, none of the games are directly connected outside of their gameplay elements and development staff.

The gameplay in Soul Blazer is a mix between ActRaiser and A Link to the Past. You control "The Hero", an angel sent by "The Master" to release souls imprisoned by King Magridd and Deathtoll. Deathtoll offered King Magridd gold for every soul that the King imprisoned. "The Hero" enters different areas of the world, and as he defeats all of the enemies on screen or all enemies of a certain type, a soul is released back into the nearby town. The released soul can be a person, a house, or even a tree or flower.

Gameplay is very reminscent of Zelda games, in that you view everything in an overhead perspective. The controls are fairly basic and consist of swinging a sword or using magic. You could switch to new more powerful weapons and armor that you find along the way or are given to by released souls. You can later return to old dungeons and defeat previously invincible creatures to completely release all souls from an area. While very basic, the level design and graphics were unique enough to make the game stand out, looking more realistic than the cartoonish and round Zelda. Soul Blazers greatest asset though was not gameplay, but the music. The game's score is one of the best to be found on the SNES, especially in the early days of the console.

The biggest thing standing in the way of Soul Blazer being released is Square/Enix. No games from the publisher have reached the Virtual Console yet other than ActRaiser, and with Squeenix porting and remaking their flagship Final Fantasy games left and right for the DS and PSP (where is my FFVII remake?) it is looking very unlikely that the Virtual Console will see games from the publisher. I could see Square/Enix opening their own shop on the Wii, making their own rules and pricing structure, but it doesn't look promising for the immediate future. Hopefully, when Square/Enix finally does release more older games, Soul Blazer will be among their list of games.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Wii Virtual Console Wishlist Part 1: Super Metroid

I have been wanting to do this for a while, create a list of my most wanted games that should come out on the Wii's Virtual Console. I finally started to compile a list of the games I want to see, and the game I want to see the most is Super Metroid, originally released on the SNES.

One of the reasons I want to see Super Metroid so bad is a little embarrassing for me to admit. The reason is that I never got to play the game when it was first released. Well, that's a bit of a lie, I have played Super Metroid, but only for a few minutes, and never on my own console. I have watched others play Super Metroid (selfish friends) but have never owned or rented the game for me to play. I have tried to do both before, but the game was either already rented (for 4 years straight) or it cost $70 in the store, even years after it was released. When I finally found it used for $25 back in 1998, my SNES finally died, and I returned the game, unable to find a good SNES to buy. I have never been able to play Super Metroid, and the Metroid games are some of my absolute favorites of all time.

So a little about the game itself. Super Metroid was released in the US in April of 1994. It immediately became a favorite among game journalists, topping many game of the year lists, and still appears on many "best games of all time" lists. The story takes place immediately after Metroid II for the GameBoy, and follows Samus across the planet Zebes as she hunts down the space pirates, after they stole the last surviving metroid from a research facility. The game used the largest cart released up to that point for the SNES, and provided a massive world for Samus t explore.

I was hoping and praying since 2001 that Nintendo would re-release the game on the GBA, like they did with so many other games, but it never happened. We did get the amazing Metroid Zero Mission which used Super Metroid style graphics to remake the original NES Metroid game. The GBA also saw Metroid Fusion, which introduced new mechanics to the game, but dumbed it down a bit for newer players to the franchise, with a large amount of hand holding for the whole game. Sadly, Super Metroid never got it's remake.

As I am writing this, I read the following story on Kotaku: CLICK HERE! It looks like maybe Nintendo will be releasing Super Metroid to coincide with Metroid Prime 3's release at the end of the month. Good news and bad news, as I will be busy with Prime 3, so no time for Super Metroid. I am a one game kind of guy, what can I say. Hopefully this means Nintendo will be making my dreams come true sooner than expected!

Next time on my Wiishlist (HAHA!), something a little more Enixy.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Wii Virtual Console Game of the Month: JULY 2007

Do you remember how great May was for the Virtual Console? Act Raiser, Ninja Gaiden, Final Fight, Kid Chameleon, Donkey Kong Country 2, all terrific games. June and July weren't so lucky. A few decent games showed up, like F-Zero X and Dynamite Heady on the last day, but overall, both June and July were rather disappointing. There was a bright spot though. The sparkling diamond amid the rest of the faded gems was Paper Mario for the N64.

Paper Mario was originally released on February 5th, 2001 in North America on the Nintendo64. Developed by Intelligent Systems Co, an internal Nintendo development team, the game is the spiritual sequel to Super Mario RPG on the SNES. Intelligent Systems Co had previously made most of the Fire Emblem games {Japan only :( } and most famously, Super Metroid on the SNES. It was released at the very end of the N64's lifespan, as the GameCube would be released at the end of 2001. Two sequels have been released; Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door for the GameCube and just earlier this year, Super Paper Mario for the Wii. You can find my review of Super Paper Mario by CLICKING HERE.

While both Thousand Year Door and Super Paper Mario used Mario's paper body for many great mechanics, the paper idea behind Paper Mario is almost entirely a visual aspect, and nothing more. The fact that Mario and friends are made of paper is only used as a graphical effect, and only once or twice used in gameplay or story telling. The world Mario lives in is mainly constructed of 3D polygons, but the characters and some items, like bushes and mushrooms, are 2D sprites, which when surrounded by the 3D items, give everything that "paper" appearance.

Paper Mario is titled such because of it's graphic style. Overall, the graphics hold up for a game made on a console 2 generations old. There are some clipping issues between the larger polygons, and many of the 2D sprites stand out more than the designers intended them to stand out. The biggest graphics issue is the text. The game is programmed in the N64's native 240i format, so when the Wii spits it out at 480p, the text is blocky, and sometimes hard to read.

Gameplay is very similar to most RPGs, but with an action twist. Yes there are turn-based battles and leveling up and items to collect, but instead of random battles or just picking attack or magic, Paper Mario gives you some additional control. You can see most enemies before a battle, even even jump on them or hit them with your hammer to get the first hit in. And once in battle, if you time your button presses right, you get extra hits on the enemies and can avoid or decrease the damage of their attacks. It's a mechanic that has been recycled in the newer Paper Mario games, and the GBA's Mario & Luigi games. It prevents the battles from getting too boring, but there are some issues where battle mechanics are concerned.

There are some balance issues in the game, specifically with the way you level up, and the strength of the enemies. When you level up (gain 100xp) you can raise your HP (hearts), MP (flowers) or Badge Points, or your accessory points. All of your special abilities are made active by equipping badges, which require badge points. You start with 3 points, and at level up, can raise your BP by 3, or your HP or FP by 5. Here is where the balance issues come into play. All of the cool abilities and powers require you equip more badges, which means you need more BP. However, without also increasing your HP and FP, the enemies will kick your butt. The logical approach, and in most RPGs, is to level up MORE to become more powerful, but in Paper Mario, once you gain a level, enemies give less XP, so after 2 levels, instead of 6XP a piece you get 1XP or NO XP at all from defeated enemies. This makes it impossible to get as strong as you would probably like to be. Instead you find yourself avoiding 99% of enemies instead of fighting, and when you do fight, you lose 25-50% of your HP. And that is nearly every battle. To compensate for your constant HP draining, healing items are CHEAP and coins come easily, but you can only carry 10 items, and you often would need to wade through and avoid lots of enemies on your way back to a store. This all could have been easily avoided if players were allowed to level up freely, and it would make sense even more, because you don't deliver more damage after leveling up, only get more HP/FP/BP. It seems very sloppy.

Despite my big gripe, the game is fun. The battles are fun, the story is simple, the game controls well, everything works very well together overall. If you can get used to the wacky balance issues and garbled text, then there is little else to detract you from enjoying the game. Although only 6 years old, this game feels older than it is, but not any less fun. I won't give a score to this review because I can't pick one. It's a 4, it's a 2, it's a 3, it changes depending on what aspects of the game I look at. Balance issues vs fun vs graphics vs timelessness, it isn't fair to give this game a number. It is the best game released in the past 2 months, so that should be more than enough of a clue as to how good the game is. And for only $10, how can you go wrong? When we look back, what matters most is that this is the game that lead the way for the greats like Super Paper Mario and the Mario & Luigi GBA games, so I will gladly tip my hat to what ends up being a fun and enjoyable game.