Drop the WiiU? Hahaha….. Oh you’re serious?

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This week, upon browsing video-game blogs, I began to notice that in comment sections relating to WiiU news, comments along the lines of ‘Nintendo should drop the WiiU and develop a competitor to the Xbox1 and PS4’ were surprisingly prevelant, given that this was a thought that had not once occured to me. Some of these comments were undoubtedly the work of the internet trolls (akin to the Christmas fairies but far more numerous and toxic), but some were not. Some even seemed to come from people claiming to be Nintendo fans. This is surprising, as it is hard to see how anyone can think this is a good idea. Indeed, its hard to find much of an upside at all.

I find it hard to believe that Nintendo will go down this route. There are just too many downsides to that course of action. Most obviously, this move would be a huge slap in the face to people who had already invested in a WiiU and were perfectly happy with their machine. How would you feel if you had just forked out for a new console only to find out that it was being dropped because the company wasn’t happy with it? Now, I’m not claiming that Nintendo are above slapping their customers in the face (they aren’t; who else got a 3DS on release onlyfor the XL to be released shortly after?) but the alienation of customers that this would create is not something that Nintendo can afford right now.
Financially, dropping the WiiU would make little sense. There are many big, first party titles which are already in the late development stage. To drop the WiiU would force them to either halt or delay these games and re-develop them for a new console, which is time consuming and costly, or release them anyway. But who would buy them after the console had been officially dropped? Why not just wait for their iterations on the new super console that people are apparently asking for?

On that note, its all very well saying that Nintendo should develop a more powerful console to take on the new Microsoft and Sony releases, but we all know that its not that simple. Developing a console to a good standard from concept to release takes a huge amount of time and money,and by the time this could be completed the Xbox1 and PS4 would be hugely entrenched, so sales of the new console would not be guaranteed to be good or anywhere near the volume of sales that the current gen consoles will rack-up. A powerful machine is also not really that useful for the kind of games that Nintendo want to make. ‘I really want to see every bead of sweat on Mario’s face when he kills another Goomba’ said no-one ever. The reason that Nintendo haven’t ever gone for the most powerful system capabilities is because they don’t really want to. It isn’t their style and they don’t need it. Graphical capabilities are not the reason that people want to buy Nintendo products. Not to mention the huge undercut of confidence in Nintendo as a company if they decide to drop their console after only just over a year.

These calls to drop the WiiU make no sense and seem to be coming from a tiny minority of people. So why write this blog entry? Well, mostly just because I’m astonished that this argument is ever put forward at all. Lets hope this sets things straight, eh?

 

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Zombies!

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As you can see, the last few models of this Zombie unit have been finished off bringing their strength up to twenty. I now only have two projects to finish: the Mortis Engine and the Grave Guard. The Mortis Engine will have to wait until I can get the right paints, but what of the Grave Guard? Simply put, I hate them. Don’t get me wrong, the models look great and they are a useful unit, but the models themselves are badly designed. The contact areas for the parts are tiny, so the models are incredibly brittle. I have now finished that unit three times because they break so easily, which makes them tough to paint as well as being tough to put together.

Anyway, rant over. But where to go from here? I feel that my army needs more but I can’t decide what is needed next. What do you think? Drop me a comment and let me know what you think should go in the list below:

 

1 Vampire

1 Necromancer (can be lord or hero depending on points size)

3 units of 20 Skeleton Warriors

20 Zombies

20 Grave Guard

5 Black Knights

5 Hexwraiths

1 Corpsecart

3 Spirit Hosts

1 Black Coach

1 Tomb Banshee

Mortis Engine (incomplete)

 

Let me know what you think!

Super Paper Mario

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I was thwarted in my efforts to settle down and play some GameCube classics (I was hankering to play some Super Mario Sunshine, it was really cold that day) by my memory card disappearing. This was tragic, even more so due to the hours and hours of Timesplitters 2 data that would now be lost. Instead, I decided to crank out my old Wii and play a game that I had hitherto not got around to doing so; Super Paper Mario. I got this game a few years back and never seemed to find the time to play it. It turns out that I had been missing out. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series it is a part platformer, part RPG where the landscape and characters are rendered in 2D out of paper. The main catch of this game is that you can flip the 2D level around to defeat monsters or move through areas which would otherwise be impossible. Mario and co can turns sideways to slip through the tiniest of gaps, and turning the level into the 3D perspective can reveal previously hidden items and pathways.

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This makes the gameplay sound gimmicky, but it isn’t. Once you get used to the concept you find yourself seamlessly switching between dimensions to progress through levels and find hidden treasures. The level of detail and complexity in the level design is staggering, and when you play through the levels you really get a sense that this is a game that has had a huge amount of passion and skill gone into its design. Obviously, being a Mario platformer (sort of) the gameplay itself feels great. Mario feels sharp and responsive, the platforming element is enormous fun and the dialogue between the characters is hilarious. This is another great example of a Nintendo game that does not take itself too seriously and is full of Nintendo in-jokes, poking fun at itself and the genre in general. What of the RPG element? Well, its pretty simple. Points earned in the levels by killing enemies and so on are used to level up your party giving them increased health and attack strength and so on. The great thing about it is that it does not involve any serious stat crunching and your whole party levels up rather than the individual characters avoiding the problem of some characters being overpower or neglected. This keeps the game flowing along at a brisk pace rather than being bogged down by the RPG element. It is a nice addition that keeps the game feeling fresh but does not intrude too much.

However, it is the visuals of the game that truly stand out. This is a great example of a game where pre-rendered, hand drawn visuals can look far more detailed and beautiful than any super realistic game. The characters and backdrops and beautifully designed and detailed, comprised of astonishing textures and colours. The animations are handled very well and add a great level of depth to the game. Its the little things that seem to make all the difference; the way that new levels are drawn in front of you in an etch-a-sketch style before being coloured in and detailed, or the way that between scenes the world gets crumpled up and crunched together before the new scene opens up. I love the way that in some parts of the game you can warp between the levels and the backgrounds of the levels to press hidden switches or collect items. The boss fights look spectacular, with huge creatures made from paper leaping out to waylay Mario and his party in the pursuit of their quest; they never fail to look stunning and a treat for the eyes.

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This is definitely a game I would recommend, even to those who are not usually keen on platforming games in general. The way it is presented is so clever and visually stunning that you may find yourself enjoying the game anyway even if platforming isn’t your thing. The N64 and GameCube both had Paper Mario games released on them which were better received by critics, and focused more onthe RPG side of things. I haven’t played them (they are too pricey to pick up at the moment) so I can’t comment on which game is best. I can however, say that this game as a stand-alone title is fantastic and well worth picking up second hand. This is also the kind of game that I could see working really well on the WiiU’s HD format…..

Nintendo Adventure Books

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Does anyone else remember the Nintendo Adventure books? I had completely forgotten about them until I stumbled across them by chance on another blog. Looking back on it these books formed a fairly large part of my reading roster as a child. For those who haven’t read them, the Nintendo Adventure books are a great series based around stories set in the Mario and Zelda universes. In a style similar to that of the Goosebumps books (another childhood favourite) the majority of the stories incorporate an element of choice into the story telling. Each decision leads you to different pages and ultimately to different endings. The choices that you make can literally make the difference between character’s living and dying. If they die its game over and you have to go back to an earlier point of the book and try again. I really loved them because literature was a love of mine long before video-gaming was, so it was great to read books which contained my favourite video game stars. The element of choice in the books was also entertaining and allowed you to feel more involved in the story, and as such made you feel more immersed in the gaming universes. My particular favourite in the Mario series involves a story where Mario needs to be shrunk so that he can rescue Luigi from Yoshi’s stomach. As far as I can remember Yoshi had eaten Luigi at his birthday party, possibly mistaking him for cake.

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Thinking about these books has made me realise that I very much enjoy reading stories or comics about gaming characters. They add an extra element of depth to many of the characters, and this helps to bring them to life. A good example of this would be the Sonic comics that I used to collect as a child. I honestly have no idea if they are still in print (I suspect not) but they were fantastic. They not only had great story lines and lovely artistic style, but they also managed to give more life to many of Sonic’s supporting cast, many of whom remain pretty anonymous in the games themselves. If you can manage to get your hands on either the books of the comics, do so. Obviously they will be a tad too simplistic for an adult audience but are nevertheless worth a read, at the very least any kids/nieces and nephews you have will love them.

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Top Ten Video-Gaming Moments

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Several weeks have now passed since the chaotic releases of the now current-gen consoles, to rather mixed receptions, some glowing, others less so. The main gripe that people have had so far revolves around the lack of hard hitting exclusive games on each platform. This is not terribly surprising since launch titles are never usually the best a console will offer. As we head towards the New Year and a 2014 filled with brand new gaming experiences I’m sure that both platforms will step up with a whole host of games filled with exquisite gaming moments. In honour of the occasion I have compiled my top ten gaming moments, moments which remind you why you love gaming in the first place. This list is obviously only my opinion based on the games I have played but I would love to know which moments make your top ten.

10. First exploration of Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64

This is one of the first games that I owned on the excellent N64 and remains a favourite to this day. The game is filled with many great moments but for me, the most stand-out moment is entering Peach’s Castle for the first time. This is one of the first games to use a 3D explorable hub as a means of moving from level to level and, I must say, did it beautifully. The sense of space and scale was incredible. Seemingly infinite rooms branching off in all directions, massive gardens (filled with Boos) and basements to work through, and huge Mario themed artworks festooning the walls, all enjoyed to the backdrop of a regal musical accompaniment. The levels themselves are perfectly designed, but the addition of the hub lends a wonderful cohesiveness to the game.

9. Arrival in Oblivion/Skyrim

I have put these two together because the positives that they have are identical. As you emerge from the sewers (damn sewers) or dragon ravaged towns to emerge on the main world map, the feeling of freedom within the game is brilliant. You are given vague directions towards a main goal but equally you are free to just wander off wherever you like. Not many games have done this as well as the Elder Scrolls games. In Oblivion you are faced with a vast beautiful expanse full of colour and burgeoning possibilities that just demand to be explored. It is the same for Skyrim although, of course, the world seems harsher and starker, but no less beautiful. Both games offer a huge and, at first, seemingly overwhelming amount of freedom and choice, and this is most apparent when you first venture out into the vast wilderness.

8. Finding the last mask in Majora’s Mask

This game was slated by many fans of the series for being too small as it only contains 4 traditional Zelda dungeons. However, this game was far from small. Every mask that you had to collect involved the telling of a mini story, which gave a real depth to the world of Termina and its inhabitants. They became real people with real problems and not just irrelevant NPCs to interact with. By the time that you have found the last mask out of 20, you have completed 20 mini side quests, helped dozens of people, performed a complex array of tasks, and travelled back and forwards in time more times that you could possible count. You have changed the world of Termina for the better. The attainment of the last mask is the end of a long and immersive journey, and never fails to feel well earned.

7. Defeating the Elite 4 and Lance the Dragon Master in Pokémon HeartGold

Defeating these opponents feels hugely satisfying. You started out with one weak level 5 starter Pokémon, but through innumerable battles and showdowns you have raised it and at least 5 other Pokémon from humble beginnings to fully evolved and strong Pokémon. As such you really care about the Pokemon under your command and the sense of achievement is strong as you face down and defeat the very toughest trainers that Johto and Kanto have to offer to take your place in the Hall of Fame.

6. Defeating the first boss in Dark Souls

This game is littered with amazing moments so picking just one is particularly hard. I initially thought that the showdown with Lord Gwyn at the end of the game, but after reflection settled on the killing of the first boss. At this point you are new to the game, still finding your feet, cutting down hollows and knights, but still dying a lot. At first the demon boss occupying the bridge seems to be an unbeatable foe, but after many attempts you learn the skills to take him down and kill him in a furious and hair-raising struggle that leaves you out of breath and exhausted but full of triumph. If you haven’t played this, go do so, you’ll see what I mean. The sense of victory against impossible odds is great.

5. Becoming adult Link in Ocarina of Time

After opening the Door of Time Link steps forward and grasps the Master Sword, and makes videogame history. The moment that Link awakens and realises his adult self is stunning as you transform from a child to the Hero of Time, Master Sword in hand, is one that I, and many others I’m sure, will never forget.

4. Defeating Bowser for the final time in Super Mario 64

After climbing the previously infinite stairway, the final confrontation with Bowser awaits. You have explored numerous worlds, collected 120 stars, and defeated countless numbers of Bowser’s minions. The moment when Bowser starts moving towards you to attack sent a thrill down my spine. You have chased him across worlds to this point, but you both know that there is no escape for either of you at this point, it’s the final confrontation. The feeling of elation when you throw Bowser into a bomb for the last time is huge; the last act in an amazing game against the most iconic villain in video-game history.

3. The village scene in Resident Evil 4

Like Dark Souls, this is a game which is crammed full of great moments, but for me the best moment has to be Leon’s first trip into the village. So far only a handful of Ganados at a time have been attacking you and you’re thinking, this OK, nothing I can’t handle. Then you go through the gate and suddenly a whole village is after you, your safe refuge being broken into by a huge maniac with a chainsaw and a bag over his head, intent on beheading you. This was shit scary the first time. It feels as if there is nowhere to hide from a whole village full of pitchfork wielding locals all trying their very best to kill you. This scene exemplifies the qualities that make this game great, it’s fast paced, action packed, scary, brutal, and makes you feel terribly alone against overwhelming odds. Surviving it makes you feel like a hero. Only 900 more Ganados to go, eh?

2. Killing Trevelyan in Goldeneye

This is the climax to one of the best games ever and really feels that way. You have finally cornered this shadow, this phantom that you have been pursuing for the whole game. The race through the cradle is brilliant, and, is actually still tricky on the higher difficulties. The enemies are numerous with powerful weapons, infinitely respawning. You have little ammo and limited health, and all the while you have to keep pace with the fleeing figure of Trevelyan, trying to damage him enough to make him take his final stand and trying to keep yourself alive. It’s not easy. Hence the elation when you finally blast him off the satellite. How many times did you die before figuring out not to use the ladder?

1. Ganon Attacks! (Ocarina of Time)

So, you have freed all the sages, cleared all the temples, stormed Ganondorf’s castle and tower and defeated the man himself. So its over now, yes? No. Just as you go to make your escape the figure of Ganondorf emerges from the ruins of his castle and uses the power of the Triforce to transform into the monstrous Ganon, revealing the actual final showdown of the game. It’s a huge moment in video-gaming and was actually surprising the first time through, his appearance enough to quash the triumph that you were feeling at defeating Ganondorf. The Master Sword is knocked out of Link’s hand making you feel utterly defenceless against this huge monster. Perfect.