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Slow and Steady: For Coins and Glory

I probably should’ve been done with it a while ago, but I finally finished it! What is it? Wario Land II, of course!

Treasure map? Check.

Treasure map? Check.

Every piece of loot? Check.

Every piece of loot? Check.

Nifty screen that lays your accomplishments out for you? Checkarooni.

Nifty screen that lays your accomplishments out for you? Checkarooni.

Yeah, that feeling of completing a game and knowing there’s nothing left to do is a great thing – especially for obsessive completionists like myself. You know what completionists don’t want to hear when they’re nearing the end of a game? “But wait, there’s more!”

But wait, there's more!

But wait, there’s more!

Yep, as soon as you get every piece of treasure and every piece of the “Picture Puzzle,” as the game calls that nice treasure map, Wario makes his merry way to Captain Syrup’s hidden castle and decides that he’s gonna reverse their situations: she started this mess by jacking his treasure, now he’s gonna end it by jacking her stuff. Just to let you know you’re really at the tail-end of the game, the intro screen to this level lays it all out for you:

Oh, thank God it's really almost over!

Oh, thank God it’s really almost over!

So this really final chapter is, as one would expect, the most frustrating and challenging level in Wario Land II. There are spikes and rushing water currents and pitfalls aplenty, all threatening to impede your progress while baddies of all shapes and sizes cackle with glee as they approach you with spears/claws/electric orbs at the ready. Okay, so there’s really no cackling, but I can’t help but imagine those enemies are having a great time getting in Wario’s way. The bastards.

After grabbing all the loot and completing the treasure map, I initially wondered why in the world I would want to play one final level in the game, but then I realized that this last challenge is the only chance you’ve got to bring everything around and show Wario’s true colors. Wario doesn’t just enjoy the sight of shiny gold coins and fantastic baubles, he loves it, and he wants to wrap his greedy mitts around every object of value he can reach. Until you get 100% in Wario Land II, however, Wario isn’t taking anyone’s stuff; he’s just striving to get his own money back from Captain Syrup. As I beat the real final boss and snagged the biggest money bag I’ve ever seen (replete with the Syrup symbol on it), I couldn’t help but feel that some twisted version of justice had been served. You don’t steal from Wario – he stomps all your henchmen and takes everything you’ve got!

As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoy the personality and philosophy that the Wario Land series has in its possession; the greed and power of Wario is a welcome alternative to the endless do-good attitude and smooth jumping of Mario. Yeah, it feels good to be the “good guy” in a game, but every now and then it’s fun to tear shit up and leave one’s enemies penniless.

On that note, I’ll be starting the next installment in the Wario Land series:

Oh yeah, the graphics are crisp as toast!

Oh yeah, the graphics are crisp as toast!

Expect more gleeful coin-grabbing and baddie-tackling soon. Also, I’ve hinted at it a few times, but I’m trying to put together some sort of personal Atlus retrospective for myself, seeing as how I’ve had a pretty good time playing various Atlus-affiliated games over the years. So, y’know, I promise I’ll post that thing at some point too. While you wait, keep on gaming, folks!

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Just Grindin’ Games

It’s December 23rd and I’ve got something like four and a half weeks before I head back to school. That means I’ve really gotta step up my leisure game, because I’ve still got Wario Land to finish and I’ve only added a whole new dimension to my load by starting Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked. More on that in a later post, but for now I’ll say that I’ve hardly played any SRPGs before and I’m having a pretty good time.

Anyway, about the Wario Land Series …

But why not 100%?

But why not 100%?

So there’s a weird route one must take in order to get 100% in Wario Land II: you’ve gotta beat the game once before you can go back and replay levels and snag the treasure you may have missed the first time around. This means that the best you can do the first time around is 50% across the board; as you fine folks can see, I missed two pieces of treasure due to my initial misunderstanding of the game’s flow. So, now I’ve got to use this handy dandy screen:

Ooh, such pretty colors! Thanks, GameBoy Color!

Ooh, such pretty colors! Thanks, GameBoy Color!

And this little beauty:

But what's the picture gonna be?

But what’s the picture gonna be?

To keep track of my overall progress. Now, these screens are actually available while you’re playing the game the first time through, but the problem arises when you realize that you can’t go to a level-select screen and try to grab the stuff you missed in any levels you just finished. This option only becomes available when you’ve finished the game, and it’s a beautiful option because there are some levels with secret exits. Wait, what?!

Yeah, Wario Land II has this thing going on where some levels have hidden doors or alternate goals, and if you finish the level in the alternate way you go on a different path. This wouldn’t be such an annoying thing if the level select screen was there from the start, but I get what the designers intended: they wanted players to figure out the secret exit dealio on their own and then search for the other paths once they beat the game. You see, a lot of older games didn’t go for the instant gratification a lot of us enjoy nowadays, and instead opted to let players figure things out for themselves. I know I seem really mad about the level-select being withheld until the end of the game, but really, it’s a pretty nifty mechanic: it lets players who don’t care about completion enjoy the story and the game and move on, while giving the completionists like myself the option to keep on playing and go for that golden 100%.

So that’s what I plan on doing for the next few days when I’m not grinding in Animal Crossing, making life-or-death decisions in Devil Survivor Overclocked, and/or celebrating the holidays. My Animal Crossing sessions are actually lengthening because I’m trying to complete a long-term project, and, as most Atlus games go, Devil Survivor Overclocked is a lengthy undertaking. I dig it though, so I’m pretty jazzed on Atlus right now.

Keep on gaming, folks, and keep on enjoying yourselves. I’m gonna do just those things, while I tinker with my idea for a big Atlus-themed post. Hee-ho!

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Winter Relaxation: Sweaters, Jackets, and Coffee

I haven’t sworn with such vehement disdain at my television in a long time, but one of the event matches in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is pissing me off.

Betcha didn’t expect a post about relaxation to begin that way, did ya? I just wanted to highlight one of my habits: when a game becomes too frustrating, I take a little break from it and return later to see if my luck has changed. This works sometimes, I swear.

Being a man of many hobbies makes this sort of distracted relaxation simple, for I always have some other entertainment to which I may turn my attention; a stack of books, a list of games, and a queue of tv shows makes flitting from one medium to the next as easy and calm as a leaf floating on a breeze.

Seeing as how my winter break from college officially began last night after I took my final final exam of the fall semester, I’m going to have a lot of time to enjoy myself and live as I want, which means I’m gonna take things nice and slow and progress at a natural, languid pace. I was made for long winters and desert nights, always ready to bundle up and get comfy with a book or a game. I’m going to do a lot of that over the next month before the spring semester begins. A quick revelation: I just realized that, according to most college types, winter is only about a month long. Ha! A lot of cities beg to differ, but I digress.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, Wario Land II is the next handheld game on my list, and I’m still going strong in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’m considering going along with the changing seasons again and switching my house from a haunted mansion to a festive collection of snowy, icy, and holiday furniture. Even if I don’t redecorate, I’m probably gonna get off my lazy ass and post some pictures of my town. It’s about time you fine reading folks saw the fruits of my slow labor.

Aside from the usual Animal Crossing grind, I’m still plinking away at the trophy collection in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and things are coming along nicely. I’ve got nearly 600 of the 716 or so trophies in the game and I feel pretty good. I’ve got to enjoy that as much as I can today because as of tonight I’ll be watching my girlfriend’s sister’s house with my girlfriend for a week and I won’t be bringing my Wii U along – I leave it at home and enjoy my handheld games when I go places. Yay normalcy?!

This whole “watch a family member’s house” thing is becoming a winter tradition for me, and it works well because I get to laze about without fretting over school or work or what-have-you. I can just relax and enjoy my games, my books, and my own calm way of living.

So I’ll probably be doing a lot of 3DS gaming over the next week. I expect to finish Wario Land II in that time, while I continue crossing animals in New Leaf, and maybe even throwing some Etrian Odyssey IV in there. Or I could start playing Devil Survivor Overclocked. I downloaded it a while back after I’d gotten around to playing Shin Megami Tensei IV and digging it. Damn, my list of games to play gets longer by the day – I gotta take care of that. Winter, ahoy!

P.S. Atlus rules. Some games were announced a little while back that got me super excited for next year, and I haven’t posted anything about those yet. I’m thinking a big-ass post about Atlus and some of their awesome games may be in order for the very near future. Happy gaming, folks!

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Ah Crap, I Did It Again

This is what a good chunk of my Saturday night was all about:

Green suits your power suit, Samus.

Green suits your power suit, Samus.

You may remember how I vowed to complete Metroid II: Return of Samus before moving onto the second installment of the Wario Land series, and tonight, I managed to complete that mission. I know that wonky-looking 4 hour and 30 minute completion time may seem impressive for a first play-through, but once again, I have to confess that I used a map. I managed to defeat six or seven metroids before the black and white color scheme bored and befuddled me, so I found a good map online and pressed on from there.

Yeah, it ain’t the real deal with the glory of exploration and discovery and triumph over hostile forces, but seriously, I didn’t wanna look at another set of wonky black and white tiles (or, as you can see, green and black tiles via the 3DS Virtual Console’s “GameBoy Color color scheme”) while wondering which fork I followed wrong. I found it pretty cool that I could choose to view the game with the two color palettes it featured depending on which system one used to play it, but it wasn’t enough to stymy the monotony of the environment. It’s especially frustrating that I had to resort to a map again considering the general consensus that Metroid II is the most “linear” of the Metroid titles, and as I wound my way through the caverns of SR388, I could see from where those arguments come.

You see, in Metroid II, there are pools of acid that will block most progress until you defeat a certain number of metroids; in this way, the game forces players to contend with the hostile parasitic forces and adeptly boxes them in to figure out the limits of each area before opening up the next set of caves. I haven’t looked into any game-breaking glitches or movement techniques, but knowing the Metroid series, I’m sure there are ways to bypass some acid pools and completely ignore the “kill X number of metroids to progress” stipulations.

I know I sound a little bitter about the game, but it’s only because my gamer pride is a little wounded by my reliance on maps. I actually thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay, and the controls were smooth as silk. Nah, smooth as butter. Silky butter? Let’s go with that. I just have to face up to a sad fact of adulthood: even when I’m on break from school, my time is precious, and limited by the reality that I’ll be back at school in five weeks. So, I want to enjoy as many hobbies as I can in this period of time: I’ve got a stack of books I’d like to finish, a good handful of games I want to play, and even some tv shows I’d like to watch. This means that every minute spent messing around in a game that’s a little monotonous is just not cool.

So I’m doing that traditional grown-up thing where I blame most of my problems on a lack of time. While it’s true that time is of the essence as I move forward in my life, it’s also true that I’m way too good at wasting time: I sit at the computer and look up random bullshit way too often. I lurk message boards and read about games, which gets me stoked about those games, but then I play them for twenty minutes before I decide making another million bells in Animal Crossing is a more enjoyable activity. That’s pretty sad. I’d say I’m burnt out on games for the nonce, but that ain’t true – I’m gonna finish those Wario Land games. That is my solemn mission this winter.

So keep on gaming, folks. I know I’ll do the same.

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Initial Discomfort in Gaming: Searching for That Sweet Spot

Have you ever been reluctant to play a video game for any reason? Sometimes you convince yourself a game may be too stressful, or not to your liking, or not worth your time. Yet the desire to give it a chance plinks away at your resistance’s health meter until BAM, you can’t hold back anymore: the controller is in your hand and your eyes are filling with sweet new pixels.

I know the feeling of such reluctance. I’ve been resistant to certain games. Here’s an example: a few years ago, right around this time of year, I downloaded Fallout. Okay, full disclosure: my awesome girlfriend bought me Fallout. It was on sale for five bucks and I was at a low point in my life; I think she sensed this and did what she could to keep me happy. Anyway, don’t get me wrong: Fallout is a well-crafted and highly praised game. Here’s my confession: I’d never played a hardcore crpg (computer role-playing game) before. I’d played Fallout 3 on my Xbox 360 (hell, it was pretty much my sole reason for getting my own Xbox 360. That and Oblivion – damn you, Bethesda!) but according to my internet research, Fallout 3 created a rift in the Fallout fan community, mostly due to it being not in the exact same vein as the original game (I’m paraphrasing here).

Anyway, to cut back on a lot of hemming and hawing, most gamers throwing their opinions into the interwebz agree that the first two Fallout games made by Black Isle Studios are among the best PC games out there, and despite my lack of experience with computer games, I really wanted to see what awesome origins gave rise to Fallout 3. That’s how I tend to progress in my gaming life: I play a game that is usually around the middle or the end of a series and I become interested enough to look into that series’ origins. This is what I did with Fallout.

And lemme tell ya, it was damn weird at first. I recall some of my first thoughts being “Whaddaya mean I can’t move with the arrow keys? How the hell do I shoot that critter? How do people play without a controller?” Oh my, I had a lot of gripes aimed at the game – the learning curve was steep for me and my resistance to trying a new thing was only making things worse.

Then, while my girlfriend and I house-sat at her sister’s place, a big ol’ snowstorm blanketed the neighborhood with pristine flakes of snow. The house we were watching/enjoying was nestled in a cookie-cutter neighborhood near the foot of some mountains, and while the snow wasn’t too crazy it was enough to trap my girlfriend’s car in the driveway. We spent an hour or two digging a path down to the street; once we were done, it was late and my girlfriend wanted to sleep.

I don’t go to bed at “normal” hours, though – I game. So I jumped back on the Fallout wagon to see if I’d stay in it willingly, and oh man, that’s when I found the sweet spot.

While my girlfriend slept peacefully, I became absorbed in a world that is far different from my own. Radioactive winds cut across blasted deserts to bring death and mutation in their wake. Bloodthirsty raiders bartered in bullets and bad words. Most folks struggled mightily just to find a decent snack, let alone a full meal.

I trudged through that apathetic desert and I loved it.

I took on every quest I could, I searched every container, I tried to pick every virtual lock and pickpocket every virtual person, I lived and died and reloaded my save file again and again in a sand-eaten wasteland of gray morality and blood-red arguments. I wanted to keep on exploring that wasteland, even when three A.M. grinned from darkened hallways and my hands ached from hours-long dances across my keyboard. I’d found the gaming sweet spot and let it consume me.

To those who know what it’s like to feel anxious or apprehensive about playing a particular style or genre of game: don’t let your lack of expertise prevent you from at least trying out a new thing. Sometimes, when the planets align and interstellar dust mixes with our atmosphere to tinge the sky a deep strange orange, or when radioactivity threatens to eat away the very fabric of human existence, you find that sweet spot. You don’t want to stop enjoying yourself.

Sometimes, a game is just too good not to play.

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School’s out for winter!

Okay, technically, it’s not out since I still have two exams to complete, but I still have a good few days’ worth of relaxing to enjoy. Yesterday I washed the dishes, washed and dried two loads of laundry, read a bit, and played some games. All in all, it was a good day.

Speaking of devoting my winter to playing games, I’ve got that little backlog I want to shrink a bit. Remember how I mentioned I bought a few games during Nintendo’s Cyber Deals event following good ol’ Turkey Time? Y’know, Metroid II: Return of Samus, Wario Land 3, and Wario Land 4? I’ve decided that over this winter break dealio, I’m gonna finish them. All of them. That’s a taller order than it first appears because I also need to play Metroid and Wario Land 2. Damn it. Actually, I’ve been doing a bit of planetary exploration, and I’m happy to announce I’VE FINALLY FINISHED METROID!

It feels so good, it truly does. I have a few confessions to make, however: I did not play Metroid the old-school way. I enjoy the challenge of older games that require one to play it all in one sitting or use fiendishly long passwords to save one’s progress, but damn, I just couldn’t handle it with Metroid – writing down passwords and trying to blast through the game just didn’t work for me. That’s why I’m glad that the 3DS Virtual Console has the “Restore Point” feature.

What is that feature, you ask? It’s a feature that allows you, the player, to save the game exactly where you’ve stopped and continue at any point in the future. Is there a tough room up ahead that may result in your death? Create a restore point just in case you mess up! All you have to do in case of failure is go to the Virtual Console menu and continue from your restore point – you’ll appear where you set your restore point and have another chance at success. It’s almost like cheating! So, yeah, I definitely took advantage of that glorious modern system. I don’t have all the time in the world, folks – if I mess up or miss a jump, I don’t want to loop around to get to the room I was in when I fell, I want to try again immediately and get it right. Also, I don’t want to forget how the hell to get back to the place I messed up, and this leads me to the second way I cheated the system:

I used a map. That’s right, I looked at a map online while I played. Look, a good number of rooms in Metroid are the same or so similar you can barely tell the difference, and I didn’t want to spend hours memorizing paths and drawing my own damn map. Not that I dislike cartography, I just wish there was a map built into the game – but hey, it was 1986 and technology hadn’t yet advanced that far. So, in lieu of fucking up repeatedly just to advance a few tiny steps, I looked at a map and optimized my travel path as best I could.

I know what you’re probably thinking: you didn’t beat Metroid at all, man! And, well, I sort of agree with you. Metroid really beat me, as I’d tried for a few years to finish it and every time I started the game anew I got frustrated and gave up. I’m tired of giving up, so if I had to use a few extra tools to win, well, I think I can forgive myself. After all, I still had to figure out how to deal with the enemies and obstacles. Still, I look forward to the day when I can boot up Metroid again, with only spare memories of its long halls and dangerous caverns, and try to get through it without a map or restore points. That’s a challenge for the future!

So, as it stands, I’m on my way to playing Metroid II: Return of Samus, because it’s the next game in the Metroid series and, as far as I know, the only game in the series I’ve yet to play. I started with Metroid Prime back in middle school and I’ve loved the series ever since. A friend let me borrow his copy of Metroid Fusion, and a few months back when it was released on the Wii U Virtual Console, I bought it for myself. I own Metroid: Zero Mission for the GBA, and love it. I bought Super Metroid on the Wii Virtual Console a few Christmases back, then, after switching Wiis and moving on to the Wii U, decided I should just get the game on the Wii U. Yeah, I even played Other M, and despite enjoying the gameplay I was not impressed with the story. Still, the point of this lengthy and rambling paragraph is to say that I’ve played all the mainline Metroid games of which I’m aware, except for Metroid II. So when I get tired of trying to better my Samus game in Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U, I’m gonna turn on Metroid II and show some parasites who’s boss.

Yeah, this winter ought to be good.

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Thank the Maker, Some Sweet Release

Have you ever sat down a few hours before a deadline and rushed through whatever project is due in a short amount of time? Yeah, that’s what final papers do to me. I’ve got about a week or so (okay, eight days to be exact) left before I can officially kiss this semester goodbye, and I’ve been freaking out because as of three days ago I had two long essays to write before tonight.

But then, tonight – oh, tonight. I got home after driving my car home from Pep Boys and proceeded to eat my dinner as fast as I could stomach so I could begin a mad dash to the end of a seven-page paper. Okay, seven pages really isn’t that many, but to me it’s a lot – I come from a community college, where the longest paper was about five pages long and most professors are more lax than ex-Ex-lax. That stuff don’t need to work no more!

Anywho, I started the slow process of getting the damn ball rolling, and I thought I’d barely beat the deadline – when I filled out my seventh page around nine o’clock. My paper is due at eleven o’clock. Holy mother of mercy, I managed to turn it in with two hours to spare!

Do you know what that means, good readers? Do you know what wonderful things that entails?

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This thing!

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And this thing!

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Even this thing!

Arnold Palmer is confused by his can prison, but I'm not.

Arnold Palmer is confused by his can prison, but I’m not.

To top all my sweet gaming freedom off, I also have a good drank. Ya gotta have good dranks when you sit down for a relaxing gaming session.

My 3DS, my Wii U, my beautifully-sized tv – these are a few of my favorite things, and now that I’m mostly done with my schoolwork for this semester I may enjoy them to the fullest. What’s that, you say? I said I’m only “mostly done”? Yeah, that’s the bummer of it all; despite finishing the two big ol’ papers and presenting/talking to one of my classes about Felicia Day, I’ve still got one more assignment to complete and two final exams with which to contend. Studies never end for a college student! Not that studying should ever end, we’re all on this wondrous Earth for a good chunk of time so we may as well learn about it and its people.

So there you have it: I’m just about done with school for the nonce and I’ll be able to fully enjoy the wintry nights. I’ll bundle up in a few layers of clothing every night, turn the heat up a li’l, and sit back with a controller in my hand. Things ain’t over, of course – this is just a lull in the persistent cycle of college/adult life – but I’m taking my time to enjoy myself when I can. I hope you folks enjoy yourselves too. Happy gaming!

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Whoa, it’s December

Hey everyone, it’s been a while since I last posted on this site. It’s not that I dropped all the games I’ve been playing – far from it, actually! I’ve just been pretty damn busy with schoolwork, and the next few weeks don’t look to be any lighter on the homework front so I figure I should get some posting off my chest before school drives me up the wall and even along the ceiling. Without further ado, then.

My God, what is that? Let's jump back 12 or 13 years, eh?

My God, what is that? Let’s jump back 12 or 13 years, eh?

Aye, for those in the know, that’s a Wii U with one of those snazzy new GameCube controller adapters and a Super Smash Bros. edition GameCube controller. I ain’t tryna brag, I’m just tryna demonstrate why I’ve been out of commission for so long: I’ve been playing a lot of Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U, you see. In a way, I feel ripped off because I already did so much work in the 3DS version to get trophies, and I’ve got to do the same basic stuff again (run through Classic and All-Star modes with all the characters, do the Home-Run Contest with urryone, et cetera) to ensure I’ve got all the damn unlockables I got in the 3DS game. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

Yet, it’s oddly soothing, in a mind-numbing, “I’ve done this so many times it’s brainless” sort of way. I’ve even decided to switch mains (I was super stoked to bring the Pac-Attack on the 3DS but now I’m shootin’ charge beams and missiles as Samus – woot) and playing online is a blast. I have to wonder if I piss people off with all those projectiles, but hey, as competitive types say, if you can’t deal with the pressure, that’s your bad.

Anyway, onto my growing backlog. Despite my severe lack of extra dollars, I managed to afford a few games during Nintendo’s “Cyber Deal” promotion – namely, Wario Land 3 and Metroid II: Return of Samus on the 3DS and Wario Land 4 on the Wii U. I can’t play Wario Land 3 until I beat Wario Land 2, which I haven’t even begun, and I can’t play Metroid II until I beat Metroid – which, even with the awesome save state feature on the 3DS’s Virtual Console, is frustrating. This means I have at least, like, five games I’ve got to play through this winter, not counting the Super Smash Bros. grindfest.

I would say I’m getting bored of my pixelated distractions, but that’d be a lie. If anything, I’m just anxious because games are turning my attention away from my schoolwork. Yeah, there are only about two or three weeks left in the fall semester, but I’ve still got to write two lengthy essays and take a few final exams – how will I continue to hone my missile-launching skills when I’ve got to type about Arthur’s fear of death in the Alliterative Morte Arthure? I suppose I’ll have to, you know, put the games down for a while. Damn. Damn it all to damnation. This semester has been dragging for a while but I can make it, man. I can get through this final hoop and proceed to enjoy the winter break. Cold air, warm controller, layers of clothing – I’m jazzed, folks. I’ve just got to get my homework done. Whenever that happens, I think you guys may want to expect some sort of retrospective – I’m still gathering the courage to put my unwanted games up for sale, and that means I’ll be looking at a lot of old games with fond memories attached. Happy gaming, folks.

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