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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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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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Damn, I Did it Again

Uh oh, is that another Castlevania game on your Wii U?

Uh oh, is that another Castlevania game on your Wii U?

Why yes. Yes it is. I’ve got this problem when it comes to Castlevania, and another problem with enjoying modern convenience, and when you throw those problems together in the middle of October while Nintendo decides to embrace the creepy Halloween spirit you get this concoction that sucks money out of my bank account.

I knew it was coming. That title that’s highlighted by my Wii U’s cursor is Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, and it’s the beautiful GBA Castlevania game that tuned my heartbeat to the rising and falling of Dracula, and the cracking and smacking of a Belmont’s whip. That’s not supposed to be dirty, I promise. I anticipated the release of Aria of Sorrow on the Wii U Virtual Console, because the prior two weeks saw the releases of Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance on the Virtual Console, respectively – they’re the two handheld Castlevania games that preceded the masterpiece that is Aria of Sorrow. Seeing this fantastic October trend and knowing of the GBA Castlevania triumvirate, I figured Nintendo and Konami would use the third week of the month to grace loyal gamers with the third, final, and best GBA Castlevania game (ok, that’s definitely just my opinion but a lot of Castlevania fans agree – Aria of Sorrow is generally considered the best handheld Castlevania game).

Anywho, why do I sound a little disappointed in this development? Well, shit – it’s because I’ve entered one of my phases of video gaming A.D.D. I’ve got, oh, something like five or six games on my brain. I’ve been listing them throughout my posting to this blog, and with the addition of Aria of Sorrow and one more game to my list, things are getting out of hand.

Wait? Did I just mention another game I’ve added to my list?

Oh yeah. You've gotta know what this means. And if you don't, I'll lay it on ya.

Oh yeah. You’ve gotta know what this means. And if you don’t, I’ll lay it on ya. Also, look: it’s me! Way to take a ridiculous picture, genius.

Yeah, that’s the title screen from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. You know, that big awesome open-world game that helped bring “nerd culture” to the mass market? I don’t know if I’d been ignoring the trend or if my rampant love of Skyrim just forced me to face it, but the things I love that used to be “weird” or “uncool” suddenly became “normal” a few years back. It’s funky, but the trend continues and I shouldn’t feel bad about it – I can wear a Mario shirt or my Zelda hoodie and expect comments from strangers. It’s a little exhilarating. Once again, though, I’ve got to look at this example of a great game with a little trepidation. Here’s why:

Wow, cool nod to Norse poetry and OH MY WORD, YOU'VE PLAYED THIS GAME A LOT!

Wow, cool nod to Norse poetry and OH MY WORD, YOU’VE PLAYED THIS GAME A LOT!

Yep. Four-hundred-and-eighty-ish hours in the wild and ravishing lands of Skyrim. And that’s just one character – all told I’ve spent something like 600 hours playing the game. I got it at midnight when it launched on November 11th, 2011, and didn’t really slow down my wanderings for about a year or so. Even after I finally did take my foot off the Elder Scrolls accelerator, I’d keep coming back to it periodically – ya know, when DLC added more cool places to explore and more badass armor to craft. I’d jump in for hours on end and only stop to go to the bathroom or eat a little something. Don’t wanna pass out while I trek across ice floes in search of Horkers and ancient ruins!

As you can see, I get a little caught up in my games sometimes. October is my month to geek out on the creep-out stuff and I’ve been a Castlevania fan since I was thirteen or so – I think that’s when Aria of Sorrow was first released. Still, in the land I call home, October is also a month of deepening chills and frigid nights, when a sweater may need to couple with a jacket to keep the cold air at bay. Hence, my almost ritualistic return to Skyrim – it’s cold in real life, it’s cold in the game, it just feels right, all right? Sorry, I didn’t mean to go all Tarantino on you folks – I just have to be a little wary of my habits. When I first played Skyrim, I was unemployed and in my last semester at my local community college. My class schedule was almost bare it was so light, and I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into that land on the northeastern edge of Tamriel. Now, well, I’m unemployed but just now getting into the swing of university life; I’ve figured out how and when I can get away with laziness, and when I can be lazy I boot up a game. Why, the whole time I’ve been writing this I’ve had Aria of Sorrow ready to go, just waiting for me to click on the “Publish” button.

Thus, damn, I did it again – I added another time-sink to my life, one more distraction from a real goal or purpose. Ah hell, I’m getting cynical; getting an education is a purpose in and of itself. I’ve got ideas for stories floating around my head, I’ve got another few nights to finish that seven-page essay, and money ain’t so tight it’s strangling me. I think I can afford to play a game or two in my free time.

So here I go – back to Dracula’s castle for some soul-stealin’ and blood-spillin’. Happy gaming, folks!

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Twenty Leaves at Once

Sometimes during the transition from summer to fall, trees go a little crazy for shedding their clothes, and twenty leaves will fall at once. I go through phases like that too, where I’ve got too many things happening simultaneously and I’m trying to keep track of them all. Now is one of those times.

This is an image I’ve seen all too often on my tv lately:

This is the beginning of Stage 7. It haunts me.

This is the beginning of Stage 7. It haunts me.

See, I’ve been stuck on this level for, well, years really – it was the last level I reached before losing touch with Rondo of Blood, and now that I’ve played all the optional stages I can reach I’m back to this hellish place, attempting to cross a crumbling bridge as huge bats swoop at me and hinder my progress; it’s a tricky traversal. I get the feeling it’ll be the last cumbersome roadblock preventing me from finishing Rondo of Blood.

Then there’s my 3DS love. I’ve gotta preface my 3DS habits by saying I’ve spent a great number of hours gripping handheld gaming devices since I first owned a GameBoy Color back in 1998, and that preference for a portable gaming device has remained within me. Even as I turn on my Wii U in preparation for a protracted attempt at crossing the bridge from Hell in Rondo of Blood and log into this website to update this little blog, I’ve got my 3DS on sleep mode while it charges, ready to be opened at a moment’s notice so I can Super Smash some shit up. My Animal Crossing habit is still strong too, so I try to play it every day; for the past two weeks or so, that’s been a daily thing for me. That means daily 3DS sessions, the odd attempt to finish a Castlevania game in honor of Halloween, and trying my hand at being a blogger, all while trying to stay on top of my schoolwork. Oh yeah, that reminds me …

I’m sorta ignoring an essay I should be writing at this moment. The document is open and I’ve put my name and all the other required stuff on it, but I haven’t begun to set my thoughts on paper. I know where I want to go with the essay but I’m a pretty good procrastinator – can’t you see? Rondo of Blood, Super Smash Bros, and even blogging: they’re my fun distractions from the real stuff. Still, even distractions must end so real life can swoop at us like bats from the dusky sky; I’ll end this post so I can play Rondo of Blood until I get frustrated and finally devote myself to my homework. Enjoy your distractions, folks.

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