For awhile, I was a lost soul.

I played sports, watched ESPN, and even looked up sports news while at work. When the heck have I ever cared that much about baseball? I'll give you a hint: Never.

These things, this physical activity and frequent exercise, it all felt so empty. My heart wasn't in it. I would enjoy it for a bit, but being athletic always seemed to leave me asking for more.

But then something happened. I started to hear a little voice in my heart, reminding me of all the things I was missing. Remember how excited for Little King's Story you were? the voice would whisper. Sin and Punishment: Star Successor looks good, huh? The voice resonated in my soul. I needed gaming.

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Alright, obviously, this isn't quite how the whole thing went down. This is a complete caricature of my reunion with nerdiness. There was no epiphany, no creepy italics voice, and no repentance from my jock lifestyle. But this summer I have reconnected with my inner nerd, and it's been pretty awesome.

It started when I realized how awesome the new Sin and Punishment is. I haven't been able to put together an entire review (and for some reason, I haven't had the presence of mind to save my progress) but the game is amazing. The controls fit the game perfectly, and the action is intense. It's also brutally hard. All in all, this game made me feel like a gamer again.

I also had the brilliant thought to buy Little King's Story off of Amazon. This niche title is so awesome. And the fact that it's a niche title makes me feel like I am a part of the gaming culture again, which is good. Being a nerd is my thing.

Finally, I started reading the Scott Pilgrim series. If you aren't a nerd, you would immediately case me into that category, because the books look very nerdy. My friend described them as "Irish anime" (I repeatedly told him that it's manga, not anime, but he didn't get it). That forever solidified my redeemed status of a nerd. About dang time, too.

I figure I should get back into blogging too, to keep up the nerdiness. Hopefully one day I can write an entire review of S&P 2. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a question: Do you take the term "nerd" as a term of endearment, or do you think it as an insult? Would you consider yourself a nerd?

Peace out Neoseeker. I'll be back with a new post when I think of something witty or nerdy. Whatever comes first.

Small note: I still enjoy playing and watching sports. That was just an exaggeration. I love baseball! I love it when the Black Sox score baskets.

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Howdy Neoseeker! Remember me? Life got pretty hectic for awhile, and Neoseeker was put on the back burner, to say the least. But, I'm somewhat back, as I've been lurking for awhile now, posting very sporadically. And now that life has slowed down, I might start posting more regularly. For now, I would just like to give you guys a quick update of what I've been playing and doing, and give my blog some new life.

First, I purchased Pokemon HeartGold on release day, and though I've played for 10+ hours, I have only gotten 5 badges. Apparently my party is pretty awful, but I like it. It's Haunter, Graveler, Quilava, Flaffy, Krabby, and Kadabra. In retrospect, I should have picked up a Pidgey early on. That one's gonna bite me in the end. Also, Haunter suuuuuucks. :/

I also bought Warioware D.I.Y., which is an awesome game. I am not very good at drawing, or creating fluid animations, and I am horrible at creating music, but I am having tons of fun creating games and playing the ones made by famous people. If anyone else out there has the game, drop me a pm and we can maybe trade some games or something. Hopefully in the near future, once I figure the game out a little more, I can write up a review and sharpen those skills.

One of the main reasons I was gone from Neoseeker was because it was diving season. And this year I managed to advance to the state diving competition, where I placed 30th in the state. Which isn't amazing, but I am proud to have made it that far. Not that you care about that part, but I want to cover all of my bases with this post. :)

What else... well, next fall I will be attending Grace College where I will probably be majoring in Math Education. I hope to one day teach calculus, or some higher level mathematics. I'm sure that doesn't interest most of you, but I love math and I love working with kids, so that seems like the best of both worlds.

I guess that's it for now. If you are curious about anything I've said in this post, comment here or drop me a pm. If you haven't already, pick up Warioware D.I.Y. It's a lot of fun, and it'd be even more fun if we had more people inhabiting the forum.

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Isn't it depressing
When someone you know
Tells you that they look up to you
But you can't enjoy the compliment
Because you're thinking about the flaws that they don't know about?

So for awhile I was anxiously awaiting the release of a Halo for the Nintendo Wii. Not literally Halo, just a solid FPS with good online play and great action. I guess I felt a little jealous of the other consoles, who were getting waves upon waves of great shooters.

Well, that game has come and gone, but I'm too busy playing Wii Sports Resort to care.

As patronizing as I may have been towards the little white box called the Wii, there's no denying that these casual games are a ton of fun (well, except for Wii Music). Wii Sports Resort is no exception to this high caliber of gaming, bringing home a polished product that is one heckuva good time.

Of the 12 sports included in the game, 7 or 8 could be stand alone titles. Seriously, table tennis, swordplay, and basketball never get old. Nintendo once again struck gold with this follow up to Wii Sports, one of the biggest casual titles for the Wii, and the game that literally every Wii owner owns.

Let me veer off track here a bit to tell you an anecdote. I was playing Wii Sports Resort with my mom, and we were having a 3-point contest. On my first attempt, I racked up a meager 2 points. My mom, on the other hand, scored an impressive 8 points on her first time playing the game! I was frustrated and a little ashamed, sure, but the whole time my mom and I were laughing hysterically.

I tell you this story because recently I have been wondering one deep question: Where has all the fun gone?

When I say the word "fun" I don't mean in the broad sense of "enjoyable." I'm talking more in the sense of "playful, often noisy, activity" as according to The Free Dictionary. It seems that now games are more focused on skill, and less focused on fun. To some, that's not a bad thing, and I definitely appreciate those games. But I wonder this shift occurred.

Let me give another example. I am an avid player of Mario Kart DS. I learned to snake and PRB, and I tried to become a competitive racer. While doing Time Trials and learning these techniques was enjoyable, I had much more fun out of playing Battle Mode with friends via local multiplayer.

So again, I am not trying to bash games that aren't "fun." I'm really not. I'm just coming to realize that less of these "fun" games are being released. And you know, I think that is why I still stick with Nintendo. I enjoy arcade racers like Mario Kart over realistic racing simulators like Gran Turismo. I enjoy the frantic mini games of Mario Party of intense stealth shooters like Splinter Cell. And I enjoy casual sports titles like Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort much more than I enjoy Madden or NBA Live. Why? Because I have more fun playing these games.

And maybe this is just me, but I think local multiplayer is much more satisfying that taking the game online. I love the convenience of online play, and how it has expanded the gaming world. But, there's just something in atmosphere that comes with getting a group of friends together and playing a few Brawl matches, and trash talking after a victory. That comradery, that hilarity, that fun is priceless.

Again, maybe I am biased because I have spent so much time with Nintendo games. But I think there is something to say about the lack of "fun" in modern gaming today. It's for you to decide whether that is a problem or not. Now, if you excuse me, I've got to go take some jumpers. Momma's bringing her A-game tonight.

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If you have followed this blog at all, you will notice that I am pretty cynical when it comes to Nintendo. But honestly, it's a cynicism drenched in irony. I may make blog posts dissing on Nintendo's press conference, or why I regret buying the Wii, but at the end of the day Nintendo is still near and dear to my heart.

The only current gen consoles that I own are the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii. While this may be due to my inability to afford other consoles, it is also because I have faith in Nintendo. I may say that the company has failed me, but honestly, I would be lying. Metroid Other M has me incredibly excited, if only for the new Final Fantasy esque cutscenes. New Super Mario Bros Wii could possibly have been done on the DS, but playing with 4 players is going to be a heck of a lot of fun.

At the end of the day, Nintendo makes good games. They may not always be geared specifically towards the hardcore gamer, but that doesn't make the games bad. I think I deluded myself into thinking that I, a self proclaimed hardcore gamer, was above casual titles. Once I realized that casual titles were marketed to all gamers, I was able to enjoy those games more, and as a result, enjoy Nintendo more.

Above all else, I realized that I was being cynical because it was the cool thing to do. Everybody was hating on Nintendo, so it was an easy bandwagon to jump on. Once I realized that my bandwagoning was unfounded and went against my own personal opinions, I knew I needed to stop.

I say all this not to show my newfound mercy towards Nintendo, and get praise from fellow Nintendo fanboys. I am using this post more to ward off confusion, because in coming blog posts I am going to be much kinder towards Nintendo. Hopefully this is a decent enough explanation as to why.

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I've always related to the Parable of the Prodigal Son. To summarize the story, a father has two sons, and he divided his property equally among both of them. While one is faithful to his father, the younger son wasted his money on an extravagant life, and ended up in shambles. He came and threw himself at the feet of his father, begging for forgiveness. His father is filled with joy, and offers up his best calf for a feast in his honor.

When I first heard this story, I saw obvious parallels to my own life. My brother could be seen as the younger son, who disobeys my parents' rules and cares about worldly things. Although my brother has yet to throw himself at my parent's feet, these parallels are the first thing that come to mind.

So, obviously I feel immediate compassion for the older son, who is faithful to his father. One part I left out of the parable is when the older brother finds out who the feast is for, he is enraged and asks why he never gets praise. And for the longest time, I wondered the same thing. The older son went unappreciated! He did everything his father asked of him, and yet his brother got the feast!

It wasn't until recently that I read the rest of this parable. When the older son asks why he didn't get a feast, his father responded with: "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'"

This verse made me feel bad for thinking poorly of the father. He shows appreciation for the older son by always providing for him. "Everything I have is yours," he says. But the father also says "Rejoice, for your brother has returned!" The father rejoiced because the son had returned, and showed obvious remorse for his actions. He didn't dwell on his mistakes, but rejoiced at his return!

I think there is a great lesson in that. I can first look to my own situation. If my brother came to my parents and admitted all of his wrong doings, and asked for forgiveness, my parents would not respond with contempt. They would say "My son is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!" Would they not rejoice more in his return than they would in my consistent adherence to the rules?

And of course, this parable needs to be examined in a Christian context. When someone goes apostate and leaves the faith, their return is a cause for celebration. There is much more rejoicing than there would be if a devout Christian continued to be a Christian. Of course, that is also a great thing.

I no longer empathize with the older son. My perspective on the story has changed. However, this parable is still one of my favorite in the Bible, but now it is for a different reason.

P.S. - If you want to read this parable, here's a link.

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Through some unfortunate events that I won't get into, I watched an episode of the Tyra show today.

Tyra's guest on the show was Paris Hilton, the twenty something who acts no older than eleven and has the personality of a grapefruit. While ordinarily I would take this time to rant about this new breed of hopelessly unintelligent divas, Tyra Banks' annoying habit of speaking out of turn aggravated me to no end.

Even though Paris was quick to plug herself wherever possible, it was expected because she was the guest on the talkshow. However, Tyra also took every possible opportunity to promote herself, cutting off Paris at times to tell her own story. While the entire idea of the Tyra show is incredibly convoluted, it was made even worse when Tyra butted in to tell the story of a boyfriend that cheated on her. Paris looked on in discomfort, finding it difficult to believe that anyone else could be more selfish than herself.

And when Tyra attempted to be modest, it was unbearably obvious that she was doing it to please the viewers. She looked directly into the camera when she spoke the words of scripted sympathy, losing the fire that she had when she told a personal story of her successes. It was embarrassing, to be honest. Why on Earth did she ever get a talkshow?

One of the most confusing parts of the episode was when a Tyra viewer got a makeover. This viewer was chosen to get a makeover because her husband was terminally ill with a brain tumor. Now, I understand that the woman is facing very difficult times, but is getting extensions really the best thing for her? I found this moment to be a worthless, trivial way to remedy the situation, when that money could have been spent in a better way. I feel that Oprah would have handled that situation much differently. "AND YOU GET A MALIGNANT TUMOR! AND YOU GET A MALIGNANT TUMOR! AND YOU AND YOU AND YOU! EVERYONE GETS A MALIGNANT TUMOR!"

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Nintendo managed to do one thing right this year in their E3 press conference: they gave Cammie Dunaway a smaller speaking role. However, other than their doing away with Dunaway (a little pun I thought up in the writing of this blog) Nintendo once again failed to deliver anything that satiates the unquenchable thirst inhabiting hardcore Wii owners.

Right off the bat Nintendo showed off their commitment to rehashing old ideas while calling them fresh. New Super Mario Bros Wii looks to be a horrible mashing of the Battle Mode from Super Mario Bros, and the casual portions of New Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo DS. In their on stage demo, Mario, Luigi, and two off-color Toads (no Red Toad love?) flopped around the level, showcasing the incredibly stupid game mechanic of picking up other players (which Bill Trinen saw as an entirely fresh idea) and the clunky pipe mechanics. What could have been an interesting concept was oversimplified into what will probably amount to the Link's Awakening: Four Swords Adventure of the Mario franchise.

Next they went into the next Wii Fit game, which I literally don't remember anything about. It really didn't matter what they said about the game, though, because everyone knows that Wii Fit Plus will sell millions of copies within a few hours of release.

They then showcased Wii Sports Resort, which looks even more gimmicky than it did at last year's press conference. A skydiving game as soon as you boot the game up? That's not going to appeal to hardcore gamers just because it is an extreme sport, Nintendo. And no matter how you look at the game, it will still be a casual title. Bill Trinen returned to the stage to talk about the game, and noted that because the archery game was easy to control, it was "all about skill" and therefore a hardcore game. It was at that point in the conference that I realized that Nintendo had completely forgotten what hardcore gaming was all about.

Then they ranted about the DSi being different than the DS Lite, which is a load of bull crap. They praised the idea of user-generated content, bringing out the two highlights of the show (at least in terms of first party support), Flip Note Studio and WarioWare DIY. Both titles show endless promise, although Nintendo will probably botch the latter. Mario vs. Donkey Kong also has a sequel with more customizable levels, but that series has never appealed to me anyway.

And in the most laughable segment of the press conference, Nintendo tried to say that the Wii had a good backlog of RPG games. They brought out Final Fantasy: The Crystal Bearers which looked horrible even from the trailer. Because they had run out of RPG titles for the Wii, they then hid behind the awesome third party support of the DS, with the announcement of Golden Sun DS and a look at the beautiful Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. The announcement of a new Golden Sun game gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, Nintendo cared about the hardcore gamer.

And then they announced Super Mario Galaxy 2. Nintendo has always been extremely innovative in terms of keeping the mario series fresh. However, this sequel to the 2007 Wii title is a huge cop-out, especially when the first title in the series wasn't all that great. I may be a Yoshi fanboy, but simply adding Yoshi into the Galaxy universe won't make me want to buy the game again.

To try and tap into the hardcore market, they talked about three "hardcore" games on the Wii's horizon. The first was The Conduit, which I am very excited about, even though the trailer was lackluster at best. The next was Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles, and the final title was EA's Dead Space Extraction. Both of these titles are on-the-rails shooters, meaning you don't do anything but aim and shoot. That's so hardcore!

Nintendo closed the show with a brief glimpse into their collaboration with Team Ninja, the people behind the Ninja Gaiden series. The game is titled Metroid: Other M, and from the brief trailer we see that Samus Aran has somehow transformed into a ninja. She is leaping around the level, doing acrobatic cartwheels while grabbing dragons by the throat and snapping their necks. It was kind of cool, but it wasn't Metroid.

It was a year of sequels at the Nintendo press conference. New Super Mario Bros Wii, Wii Fit Plus, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again, Mario and Luigi 3, Super Mario Galaxy 2. All of these games are nothing but a rehashing of old ideas. While some innovative ideas were coming out of third party development (namely The Conduit) Nintendo brought nothing new to the table outside of a DSware title.

It was as if Nintendo's press conference itself was a sequel. Nintendo once again praised itself for selling consoles. It once again praised itself for being innovative, where there was no innovation to be found. And, once again, Nintendo pandered to the casual market, leaving hardcore gamers asking themselves why they still believe in Nintendo.

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So I finally got my hands on Madworld, the widely anticipated game from Sega, and, more importantly, Platinum Games. This game is gritty, it's stylized, and it's laugh-out-loud funny at some points. But is it fun?

Yes... and no. I've played the game for about an hour now, and I've enjoyed it thus far. The controls work well; basic attacks are mapped to the A button, and you wield the chainsaw using the B button. To swing the chainsaw, you need to flick the Wii Remote. It works surprisingly well, actually. The motion controls don't seem gimmicky really.

Beating up the baddies is definitely enjoyable, especially with all the variety. You can pick up tires and throw them over someone so they can't use their arms. You can thrust a sign post through someone's head and skewer them. There are even some environmental deaths, like throwing someone in the path of an oncoming train or throwing someone into a fan.

But as fun as all that is, the one gripe I have with the game is that the enemies are painfully dumb. If I am beating up one baddy, the others are standing around, waiting their turn. They might get one punch in occasionally, but for the most part it's just me decimating the whole crowd of enemies. Boss battles are a huge challenge, but the other enemies are quite dumb.

I've just barely gotten into the game though, and I'm having a lot of fun with it. I am hoping to get a good review written when I'm done, but I've said that with a few games and never finished them. And even though I have a few gripes thus far, I still recommend this game. It's got an awesome art style, and the script is phenomenal.

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One thing I've always been fascinated by is Japanese culture. I love the technology, I love the bullet trains, I love the atmosphere of Tokyo (or what I can infer from the videos and photos of it), I love Japan. It is incredibly interesting to me, for whatever reason.

It's even gotten to the point where I have started to learn Japanese. My friend gave me a copy of Rosetta Stone with the Japanese pack on it, and I bought My Japanese Coach to see if that was helpful. And while that hobby has taken a little break as I've become more busy with school and diving, it's still something that I would love to pursue.

But Japanese... well, it isn't really a very useful language to know if you are a citizen of the United States. There aren't very many Japanese speakers in the US, so it's not like Japanese translators are in high demand. So it seems that pursuing Japanese would be more of a hobby than something I could pursue as a career.

But then I had an epiphany: I also have a pretty large interest in the gaming industry. And where do many premiere gaming industries have their headquarters? Why Japan, of course! I guess I probably should have made that connection sooner, since my borderline obsession with Japan almost completely stems from my love of gaming. It makes perfect sense that both should go together.

If I were to minor in Japanese (which is my plan regardless of what my major ends up being) I would have a huge upper hand in the gaming journalism field. I'm sure many top companies are in need of Japanese correspondents, and it would be awesome to live in Japan, reporting about all the latest news and whatnot. And maybe it would only help on a smaller scale; if I am able to land just one interview with a Japanese developer because I can converse with him, then it was all worth it.

Again, I know that it's a pretty easy connection to see, but I didn't think about it until just know. While I have not been able to make up my mind on whether or not I want to pursue journalism full time, or head down a different career path, it's cool when things fall into place like that. And until I do make that decision, I'll just have to sit back and repeat the phrase "Otokonoko tashi wa juicu onondeimas" into my crappy computer microphone, and continue writing up lackluster blog entries and amateurish video game reviews.

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Whenever I talk about the flaws that I see in Mario Kart Wii, people seem to be on my case, calling me a "Mario Kart DS fanboy" and some names that are a bit less pleasant. To be fair, I am pretty stubborn when it comes to Mario Kart DS, but at the same time, it's hard not to notice some of the glaring issues with Mario Kart Wii. I'm going to use this post to talk about some of those things and what I want to see in future Mario Karts.

First, I will admit that Mario Kart Wii is a good game. If you want to casually play a racing game, you need not look farther than MKWii. It's a really fun game, especially with friends. Online can be a blast when you just want a few rounds for fun. The controls are tight (the Wiil is clunky at times, but the Gamecube controller is awesome) the action is fast, and the items are as zany as ever. I'm not here to argue that it's a bad game, because it's not.

However, it's clear that the game is made with the casual gamer in mind. Which, again, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Multiplayer is where you'll get the most enjoyment out of this game, with four players racing onscreen at once. It's a blast to trash talk friends when you hit them with a well placed banana peel, and boost into first place. But, the whole experience is almost too fun, and there is very little room for competitive players to shine.

I have a few reasons as to why I think this. My primary reason is that items are used WAAAY too frequently during online and Grand Prix races. Seriously, I've been a half a lap ahead of the rest of the people in a race, but fall to 6th or 7th because I was bombarded by seven thousand blue shells. I understand that the game is about the crazy antics and over-the-top items, but at the same time, it gets obnoxious having eleven other players hurling items at you constantly.

And also, getting the better items give you a much bigger advantage than in previous Mario Karts. A Bullet Bill in Mario Kart Wii might take you halfway around the course, passing six or seven racers if you are lucky. In Mario Kart DS, you may only pass one person and will never travel halfway around the track. There isn't much balance to this game, which I think stems from the casualty of the game. Bad racers who are new to the game still have a fighting chance because of these godly items.

One of the things that bothers me most is that there is not any sort of competitive tactic that separates the best racers from the adequate. There isn't snaking, there isn't ticking, there isn't anything that can only be mastered by the best racers out there. Some may find that argument ridiculous, citing that it's good to not have any sort of "competitive tactic" but the lack of anything to master made me lose my drive in becoming good at Mario Kart Wii.

Some might sight stunts as something to master. Stunts seem cool at first, until you realize that they are incredibly easy to do, rendering them anything but competitive. All you do is flick the Wii Remote up and boom, you get a boost. I think that this is, once again, a move to get away from competitive play. Since stunts are easy to pull off, everyone can do it, which means that those who aren't so great at the game can feel like they are good racers by gaining that tiny boost through a stunt.

I think the lack of balance that I mentioned early might stem from the addition of four more racers on the track. Having twelve people racing at once sounds awesome at first, until you realize that more people equals more items, and more items equals a much less competitive race. Races are now won and lost by your items, and not your skills. With more people filling up the bottom half of the places, you are much more likely to get hit with a blue shell or one of thousands of bananas left on the track. It's more hectic, definitely, but not more fun.

Now I've really covered all of my gripes with the game. But if I want this post to be constructive, I should probably mention what I think should happen in the next iteration of the series.

First, I want to see the return of an online leaderboard. That was the best aspect of Mario Kart Wii, in my opinion, and is basically necessary in the next Mario Kart. Let me keep up to date on my favorite course in Time Trials, so I can see how they did it and what time I have to beat. People already do this on sites like the Player's Page, so it would be awesome to keep an official tab on times.

Also, give me some sort of competitive tactic to separate the great from the good. I don't mean that I want snaking back. People always assume that I only hate Mario Kart Wii because I can't snake, and that's not true at all. I do, however, want something that I can spend time learning and mastering, so I feel like I am an accomplished racer once I have learned it.

One thing I also would like to see is the option to turn items off in Online Play. I know items are half the fun to most people, but on the competitive racing scene most racers try to avoid using items during online matches. It would be nice to just have the ability to turn them off when racing, to make races fair and fun to those who don't really like items.

And finally, let's return to eight racers. I feel that eight was the perfect number of people racing at one time; it game balance in races but didn't get too much power to those at the rear. Races were still hectic and fun without being stupidly gimmicky. I know Mario Kart thrives on gimmicks, but there's a limit.

Take from this what you will. Maybe I am just a stubborn Mario Kart DS fanboy who dismisses Mario Kart Wii because I'm not good at it. However, I feel that Mario Kart Wii is another example of Nintendo dumbing down games to appeal to the casual market, and I'm not really fond of it.

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While on my SEGA rant, I forgot to mention that everyone should pick up Deadly Creatures when it is released this week. It's yet another mature title for the Wii, and features a really unique set of protagonists: a tarantula and a scorpion. Intrigued? I know I am, and IGN's praising of the game has won me over. I'm picking the title up later this week.

IGN Review

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SEGA is one of those developers that seems to be doing well, but hasn't really done anything memorable as of late. Yeah, Sonic games are stilling coming out by the dozen, and they are probably selling well. But for the most part, I haven't been seeing a lot of quality from SEGA, at least not for a long time.

But SEGA seems to be shaping up, producing a Sonic game that isn't atrocious (BLASPHEMY!) and also presenting three Wii titles that are shaping up to be high caliber titles. And what's even more exciting is that none of these games are aimed at the casual market.

The first of the three to be released is House of the Dead: Overkill. Under new development, the latest in the long running HotD is shaping up to be a fun shooter with tight controls and an awesome style. IGN game them game an 8.3, citing some framerate drops as the main concern. If you like the arcade versions of HotD, then this game won't disappoint when it is released on February 10.

Next game on the list is Madworld, the incredibly stylistic brawler from Platinum Games. Probably the most enticing aspect of this game is the awesome visuals, utilizing a black and white cell-shaded look that packs a lot of punch. This game definitely deserves its M rating, with buckets of crimson red blood spattering the black and white walls and characters. This game is set to ship in March, so be on the look out for this title.

Last but not least is The Conduit, the ambitious effort from High Voltage software that's had everyone hooked since it was first shown. The game was actually in jeopardy of not getting released not too long ago, because the game lacked a publisher. However, SEGA snatched the game up, which is probably a great move financially considering the massive hype surrounding this game. The game features crisp graphics, insane levels of customizability, and promise of superb online, it's no wonder that this game is so hyped up. With a tentative release date of June, we still have a while to wait for this knock out title.

So, SEGA definitely seems to be shaping up, at least on the Wii. All three of these titles are shaping up to be high quality games, and all three appeal to the hardcore fanbase of the Wii that has been left out to dry as of late. Hopefully these games can live up to the massive hype surrounding them, or else SEGA will remain the lackluster publisher that it has become.

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Compared to most people, I have a pretty expansive knowledge in terms of video games. I have a light understanding of gaming trends, robust knowledge on the gaming culture, and a lifestyle deeply rooted in my own gaming preferences. I'm what you might call a nerd.

However, one thing I have noticed is that on the Internet, I am much less knowledgeable on the prominent issues of gaming. Even on good ol' Neoseeker, my knowledge takes a backseat to those who have a much better understanding of the industry. They throw out developers names that I've never even heard of. They reference games for consoles I barely know existed. And above all else, they carry with them an extensive list of titles that they have played in their lifetime.

As someone who's beginning to lean towards a career in the field of gaming journalism, I'm learning that... well, I still have a lot to learn. While at my school I might be the person who is the most well versed in video games, it is clear that I am not an expert by any stretch. My knowledge only goes as deep as the TV shows on G4TV, the multitudes of threads on Neoseeker, and the occasional article on IGN or other gaming sites. To put it bluntly, I am a superficial nerd.

And that will not take me anywhere in a cutthroat field like journalism. To make it you really have to know your stuff, and at this point I just don't. For this past year or more I've worked really hard trying to hone my skills as a writer, writing tons of reviews and creating blog editorials that are really just practice if I do decide to head down the path of gaming journalism.

What's depressing to me is that I might spend two or three hours writing a mock editorial on RPGs, submit the post, and then go back and read it a day later and see a boring, tasteless piece of writing staring at my face. I might spend days perfecting my latest game review, but realize that my writing is completely bland and lacks any sort of personal voice. It makes me wonder why I am so eager to try my hand at such a profession, when it's obvious that writing is just not my forte.

Well, it seems that this post has gone way off of its original topic. However, I don't think I am going to change it. For the first time I see some true personality in one of these posts, and that's kind of exciting. Maybe I'm just being optimistic, but maybe there is some hope for me yet.

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If there's one area of the Nintendo Wii that I've yet to explore, it's the multitudes of WiiWare titles. Because of my limited budget, WiiWare and Virtual Console have taken a backseat so I can focus on getting up to date with the Nintendo DS. However, Christmas funds allowed me to get a Wii Points card, and so I began to look through the WiiWare games. I sifted through World of Goo and My Life as a King because they were too expensive. I didn't think Tetris Party was worth 1200 points, and Maboshi's Arcade seemed too gimmicky. I was running out of options.

And then I saw Lostwinds, and I remembered hearing good things about it. 1000 points still seemed a bit steep, but every review site I saw said it was a fantastic game. So I gave it a download. I'm glad I did, too, because it's a charming, innovative platformer that is well worth the ten bucks.

This blog post is to encourage any Wii owners to download Lostwinds now. Why? The platforming elements in this game are really cool, and have a lot of variety. You just by pressing A and sliding the cursor over the protagonist, who's name I forget (I didn't really pay attention to the story, I was in a hurry to get the game started). At first it seems clunky, but once you get the hang of it the motion feels really fluid. After awhile you unlock the wind equivalent of a double jump, which lets you reach higher ledges.

So far I've only unlocked one other type of wind control, and that's the slipstream. Holding B and drawing a path on the screen creates a stream of wind in that pattern. It is useless when used directly on your character, but it is incredibly useful to shoot water from waterfalls or fire from torches. You can control the path of the flame and direct it toward a thorn that blocks your path. It's really intuitive and the idea is phenomenal.

I'm going to keep this short so you might actually read this. Lostwinds is a really fun title, from what I've played so far. It's unique, the platforming is solid, and the wind elements are really cool. For only ten bucks, it's well worth a download.

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Renegade Kid first appeared as a developer for the Nintendo DS with Dementium: The Ward, a first person horror game that was all about the creepy atmosphere of the insane asylum where you were imprisoned. While the game featured a cool story and great graphics for a DS title, the combat itself was pretty boring, and switching between the flashlight and weapons grew tiresome. It was an ambitious first effort to be sure, but Renegade Kid's first attempt left a lot to be desired.

Renegade Kid obviously learned from their first title on the DS. Their sophomore title, Moon, addresses all of the problems that crippled Dementium, delivering an experience that shows a lot of polish and pushes the DS hardware to its limits. Moon not only looks incredible, but offers tight controls and an excellent story. All of these come together to create a compelling experience that any fans of the Action/Adventure genre are sure to enjoy.

The year is 2058. The United States has constructed bases on the moon to research a possible Mars launch and perform scientific experiments. However, during an excavation expedition, a mysterious hatch is uncovered beneath the surface of the moon. So, special forces are called in to investigate.

You play as Major Kane, the leader of the special task force called in. You and your crew begin to investigate the hatch, but it doesn't take long before things start to go wrong. Soon you are left stranded on the moon, without your crew or any means of getting home.

Moon is all about ambiance. The game is all about capturing the desolation of being stranded on the moon, and giving the player the feeling of being completely isolated. While the game is never "scary" and doesn't aim to be, there are moments where you get a little anxious and start to get a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. This is thanks in part to the rich, cinematic story, but is mostly due to the stunning graphics.

There's no way around it: This game is gorgeous. Moon is easily the best looking DS game available, putting other games to shame. Environments are atmospheric and textures are surprisingly crisp. Enemy models truly shine; animations are fluid and the enemies futuristic and unique. There are even some lighting effects tossed into the mix, which is cool considering the obvious limitations of a DS game cartridge. Renegade Kid really went all out in terms of graphics, and the game shines as a result.


Moon truly is a gorgeous game, especially on the DS.


Even better than the in-game graphics are the beautiful cutscenes, placed pretty frequently throughout the game. When you first start up the Story Mode, you are introduced to the world of Moon through one of the most cinematic cutscenes I've seen in a handheld game. And the great thing about this game is that you get to experience these awesome cutscenes throughout the entire game, not just as the opening sequence.


The cutscenes in this game are gorgeous, as shown by this opening sequence.


Another aspect of the game that really impressed me was the audio. Moon features a pretty robust soundtrack; a spacey, futuristic blend of synthesizers and technological sounds. While that sounds like it would be pretty annoying, it's really simple and works well.

What I love about the music is that it is only present when it fits the mood. In fact, there isn't music through the majority of a level. This adds to the feeling of isolation; at times the only thing audible is the sound of your gun shots. It's almost unsettling at times, which is probably the intention in a game like this.

Cutscenes offer up full voice over work, which is cool considering the limitations of the DS hardware. Voices sound surprisingly crisp coming from the DS speakers, and the acting is believable, although a little bland.

Of course, the beautiful graphics and superb audio would be nothing if the game didn't play well. Luckily, Moon is an excellent example of a shooter done right on the DS.

Moon is not your standard Run'N'Gun style of shooter, like Doom or something similar. It is much more in the vein of the Metroid Prime series, where it's more about exploring new areas with a side of action. Be prepared to backtrack, because that's a staple of this game.

Controls are your standard fare for a DS shooter: you aim using the touch screen and move using the d-pad. Controls are smooth and aiming is quite responsive. It's one of the blessings of having the ability to use the touch screen; it's hard to create an inaccurate aiming system when you can aim using the stylus.

An FPS would be nothing without cool weapons, right? Luckily, Moon has some cool futuristic weapons to offer up. Your primary weapon is the Super Assault Rifle (or SAR), which has an unlimited amount of ammo but is the weakest weapon at your disposal. Throughout your expedition you stumble upon various other weapons, like the Muon Pistol, the Quanta Rifle, and the Oxid Cannon. Switching between weapons is a breeze; simply touch your current weapon on the touch screen and then slide the stylus to your desired weapon. It's a very slick interface that works very well.

One other weapon I've yet to mention is the Remote Access Droid, or RAD. This little rover is your right hand man, so to speak, and is an integral part of getting anywhere in the game. The RAD device is Major Kane's equivalent of Samus' morph ball; it's small size makes it able to fit through spaces too small for Major Kane, which are usually little portals that just happen to be the perfect size for this little device.

One unique thing about the RAD is that it has a weapon of its own, in the form of a stun gun. This weapon is what makes the RAD a necessity for accessing most areas of the game. Certain areas are blocked of my red energy gates, which Major Kane cannot get through. The RAD can disable these force fields by stunning the source of them, which is usually a floating red diamond nearby the gate.

However, this is not all that the stun gun can be used for. The RAD can also stun enemies, which is pretty necessary when you consider that it's the only form of defense the RAD has. So, sending the little energy ball of stun matter (or whatever it may be) their way will render them incapacitated for a brief period, so you can flee as necessary.

The greatness of playing as the RAD is that it's so easy to switch back and forth between Major Kane and the RAD. By changing back to any weapon in your arsenal, you are instantly controlling Major Kane once more. It doesn't matter how far away the RAD is; you can switch between each regardless of distance, as long as both are in the same area.

Once you've completed a level, you will need to find a way to get to the next level. This is where we get some cool vehicular combat/exploration missions. You get to drive the LOLA-RR10, a reconnaissance vehicle, between locations, which is a surprisingly fun distraction. You must avoid moon mines as you travel (why there are mines is beyond me) and also avoid the attacks from alien robots.

The controls for this are reminiscent of driving a Warthog in Halo; you use the touch screen to aim your turret, and the d-pad to drive. The controls are once again very tight and work well, although it's easy to get turned around without realizing it. Once you get the hang of it, though, you should be fine.

One thing I have yet to mention is the difficulty level of the game. Enemies die pretty fast, and for the most part the game is really easy. A few well placed shots with any of the weapons in the game will kill the enemies. And even though you might get hit quickly, enemies drop health quite frequently, so it's get refilled. You also get a full bar of health for saving the game, so the game is forgiving with health.

Bosses are pretty tough, although still a bit too easy for my taste. However, bosses in this game are a cool cinematic experience, looming overhead menacingly. Once again, the game is more about mood than action, so I think that is why the game is so easy. Still, it'd be nice to have a bigger challenge along the way.

One of my favorite things included in the game is the Quickplay Mode. This mode allows you to replay any Chapter that you have completed from the main game. So if you are in the mood to drive, just boot up the driving chapter and have at it. It's a really cool addition to this type of game, and one that I haven't seen in this genre.

Moon is one of those games where everything comes together and it just works. It's got all those little touches that show polish and a clear understanding of the intended result. From the gorgeous graphics and stunning cut scenes, to the ambient soundtrack and full voice overs, this game has a lot to offer. Combine that with top notch Action/Adventure gameplay and unique additions like the RAD and vehicular missions, and you have yourself one of the best total packages on the Nintendo DS, and without a doubt the best FPS. If you are at all a fan of the genre, do yourself a favor and pick this game up.

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Before I get flamed for my title, let me explain.

Animal Crossing is a game set in fantasy and surrealism. You are the sole human, living on an island with talking animals. Every day you can find fossils buried in the earth that weren't there before. Fish are magically attracted to your fishing hook without the need for bait. Currency erupts from rocks after hitting them with a shovel. For a life simulation game, it sure doesn't focus on creating a lifelike environment.

Except, that is, when it comes to the personalities of your neighbors. The critters that move into the town quite varied; there are mice, horses, elephants, koalas, and many more. Different neighbors have different personalities, so no characters are clones of one another. It's a cool addition, to be sure, but at the same time it gets a little ridiculous.

There are personalities that make sense; "Athletic" is for those jocky guy characters, "Peppy" is for those who are happy all the time, and "Normal" is for those who don't really display emotions. But then there are personalities like "Snobby," "Cranky," and "Lazy." Which seems unnecessary in a video game that is all about enjoying your life.

Sure, it's fun to interact with your neighbors and talk to them and become friends. But it starts to become a nuisance when all Victoria wants to talk about is her fashion triumphs and how beautiful she looks. It's especially aggravating when Victoria is a horse with a humongous nose and has no attractive qualities whatsoever.

It's not at all enjoyable to listen to a "Snobby" character rant about another neighbor's style or talk about her latest furniture purchase. I don't understand why in the heck Nintendo would continue to put these worthless characters in the game, when they could instead substitute them for more "Peppy" or "Athletic" characters who are actually fun to be around. It's kind of sad when the only way to get enjoyment out of these neighbors is to watch them fall into a properly placed Pitfall trap or contain them in a web of freshly dug holes.

I don't think I'll ever understand why Nintendo put in those depressing personalities. When I can avoid contact with these neighbors, I do, unless I have some brilliant idea to bring harm upon them. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go whack Victoria with an axe.

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Here's another review for all you people interested. Enjoy!

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Booting up Professor Layton and the Curious Village is like throwing yourself into an Encyclopedia Brown book, but without the chance to solve the mysteries yourself. The premise of the game seems to be a point and click mystery game, but it turns out to be a entirely puzzle-driven experience with little else to do. While there is a great story that drives the plot, there's not a whole lot you can do to actually progress it other than completing puzzles as you find them. However, if you can look past this and enjoy it for the quirky little title that it is, than you will get a lot of enjoyment out of Professor Layton, because it still has a lot to offer.

The game centers around Professor Layton, and his young assistant Luke. Layton and Luke are called to a mysterious island, St. Mystique, to try and solve the mystery of the Golden Apple. The deceased Baron Reinhold left a cipher in his will that whoever uncovers the truth behind the mystery of the Golden Apple will inherit his entire fortune. Lady Dhalia, his widowed spouse, call upon Professor Layton to solve the mystery. However, things start to go foul when a family member is killed without warning. So, this treasure hunt turns into a murder mystery which Professor Layton must solve.

The story is a throwback to Agatha Christie style novels, with a mysterious culprit running amuck in the city as Layton and Luke try to unravel the mystery before he claims his next victim. However, this isn't your straightforward mystery. Expect tons of plot twists that really do keep you guessing until the final scenes of the game, where everything starts to come together. The story is magnificently written, to be sure, and it will keep you interested the whole way through.

So, Layton and Luke set off to solve all the various mysteries that are brought about. The system for solving these mysteries, though, is much different than you might expect. The inhabitants of St. Mystere love puzzles, and so to get any information out of them you must solve the puzzles that are thrown at you.

This is where the game starts to veer from its point and click style of play. While you do maneuver through the town using a point and click interface, you won't be uncovering clues by meticulously scouring over an area. Instead, you will be given a puzzle to solve, and then given a very small bit of information as a reward. While games like Myst and Siberia also capitalize on puzzles, they do not approach them in the same way as Professor Layton, where puzzles are basically the only mode of gameplay. Which, depending on how you look at it, is both a blessing and a curse.

It's a blessing because the puzzles are challenging, rewarding, and incredibly fun. There are 120 puzzles in the main game, increasing in difficulty as you progress through the game. There are also many different varieties of puzzles, from logic puzzles to trick questions to visual puzzles and much more. While some puzzle types are recurring throughout the game, the puzzles never seem to get old.

Puzzles are given a score in "picarats" which is based on the difficulty of the puzzle. Correctly solving a puzzle will earn you that number of picarats. However, guessing incorrectly will cause the number of picarats to drop a bit, meaning less picarats when you do get the correct answer.

If a puzzle seems too hard for you, you can buy hints using "Hint Coins" which are hidden in various places throughout the game. There are three hints to unlock for each puzzle, but not nearly that many hint coins in the game. It is wise to save your hint coins until you come across a very difficult riddle that you just can't seem to get.

If you cannot seem to figure out a puzzle and don't want to waste Hint Coins, you can exit the puzzle and come back at a later time and try again. However, many of the puzzles early in the game are mandatory to progress the plot, so you can't rush through the game without completing any puzzles.

Now, I've talked about why the puzzle system is a blessing, but I haven't touched on why it's a curse. While the puzzles are a lot of fun and offer a lot of challenge, one gripe I had was a lack of depth. Other than trying to find Hint Coins, going around town is really only about searching for puzzles to decipher. Even though the story is so rich, you do not really get the chance to solve the mystery for yourself. Beating certain puzzles (or a certain number of puzzles, in some instances) trigger new events in the plot, like a new mystery to be solved, or leads to Professor Layton solving the mystery. You do not get to do any sleuthing or investigating for yourself, which is pretty disappointing when you are engrossed in the plot like I was.

While this may seem like a big gripe to have with a game of this type, but really it's not that noticeable when you are actually playing through the game. The puzzles and story felt like they were interwoven pretty well as I was playing through the game, and it didn't feel like I was getting the raw end of the deal, but looking back I can see that I didn't have much to do with the solving of the various mysteries.

On top of the puzzles you find in the game, there are also a few bonus puzzles that can choose to do throughout the game. When you solve a puzzle, you may get a gizmo, a piece of furniture, or a painting scrap. These are pieces that you will use in three bonus puzzles. Gizmos can be put together to make a secret robotic figure, furniture can be rearranged between Layton and Luke's rooms until both are completely satisfied, and painting scraps can be put together to produce a piece of artwork found in the game. While these puzzles aren't terribly difficult, they are definitely fun distractions and welcomed additions.

If you manage to complete all of these on top of the 120 in-game puzzles, than you can unlock 15 bonus puzzles. It's a nice easter egg, and it offers up some incentive to beat all of the puzzles offered in the game. These puzzles are actually quite difficult, so only the sharpest of minds will be able to complete all of them.

On top of this is the ability to download puzzles via Nintendo WiFi connection. While new puzzles are no longer being released, you can still download the entire backlog of puzzles available online, which is 26 puzzles in total. This is just another way to squeeze some longevity out of the game.

One thing I've yet to touch on is the graphics. This game uses a cartoonish style, but it is beautiful. Colors are crisp and animations are fluid, and the style of the game is pretty unique. The character design of this game is phenomenal; a few times while I was playing through I laughed out loud at the absurdity of some character's appearances. There was obviously a lot of time spent on getting the style right, and I think it does the game great justice.

At various points in the game there are cutscenes, which are stunning. One that I remember in particular is a scene where Layton and Luke are investigating a ferris wheel and it suddenly breaks. The two are running through the park trying to avoid the ferris wheel before it crushes them. It was a beautiful cutscene, one of many throughout the game.

The audio also fares well. The game features full voice over in the cutscenes, and Simmish style gibberish in game. The voice over work is believable, yet at the same time quirky and befitting of the cartoonish style. The music is simple and pretty good, although it's nothing too special. It's definitely good, but nothing outstanding in my opinion.

So, to wrap all of this up, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a great game. The story is enthralling and full of plot twists and new discoveries, the graphics are fresh and full of style, and the puzzles are fun and challenging. The many unlockables and downloadable puzzles offer lots of different things to do when the main story is over. However, the inability to solve the mystery yourself brings this game down a bit. Overall though, this game is a wonderful experience that will amuse anyone looking for a unique experience.

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One of the most pleasant surprises of 2008 for me was seeing Mario Kart DS return to the top 10 selling games of the year. The game, released in November 2005, remains the most played game on my DS, and is easily my favorite game on the system. However, it is still surprising to see it sell so well this long after its initial release. Many people are probably a bit stumped as to why this happened, especially after Mario Kart DS was absent from this list in 2007. This blog post is my speculations as to why the game is still selling so strong years after its release.

The most obvious reason for the continues success of this game is the blazing success of the Nintendo DS itself. The DS is continuing to sell like hotcakes, outselling every console and handheld on the market by a mile. In December of 2008, the DS sold over 3 million units, which is a new record for most hardware units sold in a single month. To date the DS has sold over 27 million units in the Unites States. It's no wonder that people are just now picking up the "classic" DS games like Mario Kart DS.

Second, Nintendo is realizing that newcomers to the Nintendo DS may not know about the older games that were hot sellers in their time. Recently Nintendo has put out a commercial that advertises older first party games in the DS' library: Nintendogs, Animal Crossing, and Mario Kart DS. This holiday season commercial brought the spotlight back to these older games whose sales might not have been up to standard with newer games, which generated interest in these games once more.



But the other two games in that commercial did not seem to sell as well even with the extra advertisement. What was it about Mario Kart DS that generated so much interest?

I think it's the fact that the game appeals to every type of gamer. Casual gamers enjoy the fun oriented type of antics that come with the Mario Kart name; the frantic items flying at you at all times, the colorful tracks that are interactive and unique, the easy access to Nintendo's WiFi connection. And seasoned gamers love the competitive side of things; snaking and PRBing opens up a whole new level of competition for those seeking a challenge.

On top of that, Mario Kart is such a universal name now. Kids ask for it as a Christmas present to accompany that shiny new Nintendo DS Lite, and moms buy it because they feel comfortable with the Mario Kart franchise. There's no violence or blood; maybe a few squirts of ink here and there, and wiping out on a well placed banana peel. It's a clean name that mothers look to and know that they are making a safe choice.

Finally, I think the game is still so successful because it's such a great game. Mario Kart DS was definitely hyped up by Nintendo, that's for sure. It was to be the first game to feature online support, with online racing available to you as long as you had access to a WiFi hotspot. And Nintendo definitely played up this point, advertising the game left and right leading up to its release.

And then the game released, and everyone realized just how great of a game it was. The controls were responsive and easy to learn, the Mission Mode and Staff Ghosts offered up some hefty challenges, and online play was a great first step. Although simplistic, online racing barely lagged after the first few days of overwhelmed servers. And drift boosting techniques such as snaking and PRBing began to emerge as the must learn techniques for those wishing to be competitive in the Mario Kart world.

So, if this post did anything, it made me realize that Mario Kart DS' success is the result of all of these things, the "perfect storm" if you will. All of these things fell into place, creating the perfect environment for success of Nintendo's little racer. Mario Kart DS is not only the best selling game on the Nintendo DS, but is also the best title available on the DS, and it's not often that you see those two come together.

Note: I got all of my statistics from this GameGrep article. Check it out for the full details.

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I picked up Dragon Quest IV yesterday and I've been playing it when I get the chance. I've put in about 2 hours probably, and here's what I have to say so far:
  • The animation in this game is awesome. Seriously, for a game that originally came out on the SNES, this game is gorgeous. It holds up really well on the DS, too.
  • This is RPG goodness at its finest. I'm loving the depth of this game even at the start, with tons of different weapons to buy/find within the very first level of the game.
  • The way this game starts out is incredibly unique. You get to play as every character individually, showing the events that lead up to the party members coming together. It's really fun and different.
  • Music is excellent. It's pretty simple, but man does it work.
Expect a full review for this game once I finish the game, or get a better impression of the game. Until then, I suggest that you go check the game out for yourself.

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Note: This is a review that is currently under review in the CRS queue. However, being a relatively unknown movie, I figured that it wouldn't get too much attention, so I am posting it here to get more feedback. Comments and feedback are appreciated! Enjoy!

If there is one genre of movies that I can’t stand, it’s those sappy movies that are funny the whole way through, but have a sad ending that completely twists the focus of the film. There is a way to combine both elements into a film without becoming a trite family movie that shoves good morals down your throat. Smoke Signals is a perfect example of a film that combines both elements beautifully, using a unique story to produce a masterful glimpse into the life of a Native American living in America today.

Smoke Signals is a movie based on the novel The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie. The novel centers around the story of a boy living on an Indian Reservation, searching for answers. Alexie adapted the collection of short stories into a screenplay himself, producing a mesmerizing story that, while it takes a different path than his novel, still reaches the same end result: giving insight about the life of an Indian in modern-day America.

The movie centers around Victor, a young Indian living on the Couer d’Alene Indian Reservation. Victor is a young adult in his early twenties, living with his mother. His father, Arnold Joseph, left the family when Victor was only twelve, leaving Victor bitter and generally unpleasant.

The film opens with Arnold Joseph catching a baby that is tossed out of a burning building. People praise him and call him a hero, but Arnold Joseph seems riddled with regret from the incident. The infant he saves is Thomas Builds-the-Fire, a kid the same age as Victor, who enjoys telling stories and who is a bit… quirky.

Cut back to modern times, and Victor receives word that his father passed away, and he must travel to Phoenix, Arizona to pick up his ashes and belongings. So, he teams up with Thomas Builds-the-Fire and they head to Phoenix, revealing a lot about Victor’s relationship in the process.

The meat of the story is told in flashbacks. Throughout the journey Victor remembers key events in his childhood, which all lead to the memory of Arnold Joseph leaving Victor and his mother. The flashbacks are sad and revealing; most center on his father’s alcoholism and abusive tendencies. The memories are used frequently, but it never seems to be done in excess; every scene is memorable and necessary to revealing the true character of Victor.

The alcoholism referenced throughout Smoke Signals is a true issue facing many Indians today. House Made of Dawn, a Native American novel, uses this alcoholism to show give insight on Native American life. The lead character, Abel, faces huge struggles with relationships as a result of his troubles with alcohol. The sad truth is that this issue is a widespread problem on Indian reservations.

While the focus of this movie is on the father-son relationship between Victor and Arnold Joseph, there is a great coming together of Victor and Thomas Builds-the-Fire. Victor doesn’t really like Thomas at the start of the film. Victor thinks of him as an annoying nerd who tells stories all the time. Which is a pretty accurate description of Thomas as we first see him in the film.

But the great thing about Thomas is that he is such a genuine person. His smile radiates whenever he’s onscreen, and his awkwardness is believable and even likable. Victor, who is naturally cold anyway, doesn’t warm up to Thomas right away. But after a few key bits of dialog between the two, they become friends. It’s not sappy, and it’s not something that dominates the remainder of the film. It is, however, a key turning point in Victor’s life, where he changes his outlook on life. It’s a brilliant transition; one that’s heartwarming but never overly so.

Another key aspect of the film is Thomas’ storytelling. Thomas likes to tell stories, and it’s really the driving force behind his character. Thomas has some key insights, offering up interesting stories of Victor’s past through a different perspective. While much of Thomas’ quirkiness stems from this habit of telling stories, and also is the main culprit behind Victor’s disliking of Thomas, it is also what brings them together. It’s a difficult thing to understand, but it is done beautifully.

What I love about Thomas is that he is an annoying character to be sure, but he is also immediately likable, the underdog if you will. He is picked on by the other kids at the “Rez” school for wearing his signature jacket, but never stoops to their level. He is a kindhearted person that eventually gets through to Victor and it transforms the way Victor views the entire situation with his dad. Thomas offers some key insight about Arnold Joseph, through his experiences with him and also through his stories.

One thing I’ve yet to touch on is the humor in Smoke Signals, which is pretty odd considering that the movie is quite comical. Most of the jokes are directed at Indians and life on the reservation. The humor in this movie is of a different nature; it’s not forced jokes that keep the flow of the movie going, and it’s not your standard Indian stereotype jokes. It’s a mature, sensible humor that is very relatable to the jokes that you make among friends. And while the literal jokes are pretty few and far between, there are plenty of comical dialogues between Victor and Thomas, as well as visual cues that generate laughs.

The acting in this movie is very well done, especially Victor and Thomas (played by Adam Beach and Evan Adams, respectively). Every Native American character in this movie is played by a Native American, which is nice. The film seems very authentic, which is no doubt due to the superb acting from everyone, down to the smallest of speaking roles.

The direction of the film is also very nice. It’s very minimalist in the way it’s shot; it’s an independent film, so don’t be expecting intense special effects and the like. However, the minimalism works, using pretty straightforward camera angles and shots rather than using ridiculous “artistic” shots that would ruin the message of the film. I feel that the minimalism has an entirely different effect than Black Robe, another film that capitalizes on minimalism. Black Robe has much more emphasis on drawing power out of key angles and shots of nature, while Smoke Signals really doesn’t try anything outside the box.

It’s hard to really give an adequate review of a movie like Smoke Signals. I say that because it is an entirely different type of film than I have ever seen before. It’s raw and emotional, but never to the point of self-destruction or depression. The setting of an Indian reservation is unique to this film, offering up a fresh perspective on life and maturity and acceptance. It’s a wonderful film that will make you think about all those preconceived notions that you may have had about Indians, and I highly recommend it.

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I was listening to Songs About Jane today, and I have to say, Maroon 5 is a brilliant band.

When I think about it, my taste in music is much more mainstream then I might believe. I am not much of a music person. I have a mp3 player, but I barely use it. So, the music I like is really a lot of the stuff that is easily accessible, although I'm still not a pop kinda guy. I like soft rock, so current bands like Barenaked Ladies (yeah, not totally mainstream), Maroon 5, The Fray, people like that are all people I get into.

If you have a similar taste in music like I do, then I want to introduce you to a new group, one that is definitely not mainstream. They are Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. You may recognize the name because their album is my current signature.

Anyway, Ted Leo has a pretty unique sound, although it is similar to groups like Maroon 5 and the like. It's probably better to let you hear the songs and decide for yourself. This is Me and Mia, one of my favorites from them:



If you want some more of their stuff, drop me a comment here and I'll send you some more links. As for me, I'm going to get back to putting Sunday Morning on loop. >.>

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Over the past week I have done my best to watch every episode of The Office, from season 1 through season 4. I'm midway through season 3 right now, and at this point I can honestly say that The Office is the best show on television.

That's a pretty bold statement, but I think a lot of people will agree with me. The show is hilarious, first and foremost. Every episode is filled with gags, one liners, and plenty of awkward moments and "That's what she said jokes." I honestly believe that there is a joke for everyone in this show.

If you have never watched the show, then you may not enjoy the first episode that you watch. It's a pretty accessible show, compared to the complex storylines of Lost and Heroes, but there are still a few things that might leave you a bit confused. A lot of the humor comes from the relationships between the characters, which you may not easily understand. And the actions of the characters themselves may not seem funny, but understanding their quirks is key to getting the maximum entertainment value out of the show.

For example, Phyllis is a reserved, older member of the office. She is pretty quiet and always very courteous. But in recent episodes she has been holding a certain event (I will not reveal it as to not spoil anything) over a coworker's head, and has been very cold towards that coworker. It's comedy genius if you understand the characters, but if you don't know much about Phyllis than you may just think of her as a cold-hearted witch.

Now, why would I say that this is the best show on television? I think it comes down to the fact that every character is quirky, but completely believable. Dwight is about as eccentric as you can get, but at the same time, there's never a time when I've thought him too absurd and unbelievable. It feels like a legitimate office setting, and that adds to its charm.

Maybe I'm just getting sentimental because I've watched so much of The Office this week. But, I am writing this to encourage everyone to watch The Office and see what your missing.

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I don't know about you, but I have been a devout follower of Moon since I first heard about it. The shooter from Renegade Kid (the people behind the horror game Dementium: The Ward) is a FPS that puts you on the moon (shocker!) as you try and uncover the truth behind paranormal activity. Or something like that. I've yet to play the game, so I don't know a whole lot about the story.

But what I do know is that the game looks beautiful. Now, I'm not one to judge a game based solely on looks (I chose the DS over the PSP, after all) but this game is stunning. We're talking legitimately good graphics, and not just "good for the DS." These aren't next-gen graphics, obviously, but man do they look good. Here, have a look for yourself:



Color me impressed. Anyway, the next bit of information that made me excited was the revelation that this game will not be a straightforward, run and gun FPS. Instead, Moon is all about atmosphere. It focuses on the desolation of the moon, and so the focus is much more and searching for answers. Yes, there is still shooting robots and other various enemies, but I like the Metroid Prime approach.

Even better still is the RAD, a small vehicle that goes with you through the levels. This little car is used to solve puzzles and reach places that you couldn't go normally. On top of that, it has a stun gun, making it a neat gadget to use as a companion to your normal weapon. It is a cool feature, and one that will surely break the monotony of the run and gun formula.

There are even some driving missions, because who doesn't want to drive around on the moon? Apparently, controlling the "LOLA" 4x4 is done by using both the stylus and the d-pad. Definitely sounds interesting, and will be another way to mix things up.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my excitement with you all. The game hits shelves on January 13, so it's heading to stores soon. If you want more information about the game, I would advise you to check out the IGN Review of the game, which offers a lot of information about the game. And also, head over to the Moon forum and help start some discussion about this awesome game.

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We all know that Nintendo is behind when it comes to online interactions. Nintendo is intent on utilizing a WiFi connection even though it is not very conducive to quality performance online, and the friend codes are laborious and an unnecessary precaution. In their efforts to protect their younger consumers, they have produced an incredibly constrictive online environment that is pretty hard to like.

But at least they are trying. Nintendo is definitely striving to bring a better online experience to consumers, although they are still leagues behind the other competitors in that aspect. Mario Kart Wii is a perfect example of this; the Mario Kart Channel is a cool way to track stats and world record times, and 12 players races are fluid and fun. Nintendo is doing their best to catch up, and I respect that. But if there's one thing that I will never understand, it's Nintendo's attempt at bringing online voice chat to the Nintendo Wii: Wii Speak.

Wii Speak is an attachment that plugs into the USB port on the back of the Nintendo Wii. When used with a compatible game, the device acts as a microphone that you can use to talk to someone over Nintendo WiFi connection. Which is cool; we've been waiting for news on Wii voice chat, so it's good that they addressed the issue. What is strange about this device, though, is that it is supposed to be used as a "community" microphone, so multiple people in the room can use it.

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear that is: When are you ever going to need a community microphone? The only thing I can think of is if Mario Party ever gets WiFi support and you are playing with a few people on one Wii. But even then I might prefer to have a personal headset so I don't have to share the airwaves with my buddy sitting on the couch two feet from me.

And on top of that, I really don't want my mom coming in the room and realizing that she can be heard by my three friends playing Animal Crossing: City Folk. My mom would freaking eat that up; I can only imagine what kind of odd things she might say while trying to impress the strangers I am fishing alongside. A microphone where everyone in the room can be heard seems chaotic, and could lead to a lot of embarrassment.

I hope Nintendo had something awesome in mind when they thought up Wii Speak. Maybe there will be some awesome family game that utilizes this community microphone. I am not too optimistic. I personally think it's just another example of Nintendo taking the cheap route to make a quick buck. And until proven otherwise, I am still going to be hesitant of this new peripheral.

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Oh geeze.

A few weeks ago I noticed that my thoughts were becoming increasingly depressing, even a few that were morbid. When I close my eyes to go to sleep, my mind meanders through the day's events, but lately things are a bit warped to fit my new perceptions of reality. When I try to think about a dive I did in practice, I think of smacking on the water and how bad I am and blah blah blah.

I feel pretty ridiculous, to be honest. I swear, I'm not trying to think of this crap. Like today, for example. We were getting ready to leave to go out to dinner, and my dog ran outside in the garage. My dad called for him to go inside, and as he was doing that I shut my door. Right as I heard the slam I thought about what it would have been like if my dog had been in the door when I closed it. I had a very grotesque image in my mind of my dog being decapitated, and then of me picking the head up and petting it.

How morbid can you get? I felt really disgusted after thinking that, and so I was pretty upset the rest of the night, and it brought about this little rant. It also got me thinking about how lately I am dwelling on the negatives much more than I normally do. I wrote a depressing story a few weeks ago in this very blog, and tonight I even started to write another one. But then I stopped and realized that I didn't really have anything to complain about. I was just looking for something to be upset about for the sake of being dramatic.

And the irony of it all is that Christmas is just 5 days away. Everyone is getting into the holiday spirit and I'm thinking of grotesque torture instruments and wallowing in my own melodrama. I'm glad I caught myself today, because pitying myself isn't really the route I want to take right now.

Anyway, just thought I'd share with you my brush with insanity. At least, I hope it's just a small occurance. I don't really want to become insane on the eve of a new year.

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All I want is a brother to look up to.

When I was a kid my parents would always ask me if I looked up to my brother and I would say no but they would insist that I did. I would look down at my feet and not be able to assert myself because I knew they were right and I knew I was wrong and I knew that my brother was sitting on the couch a few feet away trying not to care. And I knew that I wanted to be like him.

Right now I'm sitting in my basement trying to concentrate on reading a book for school and my brother is fiddling around with his guitar, and then his sitar, and then his keyboard. The words I try to read are lost in a see of chords and twangs and do-dos. Words dissolve into sounds dissolve into thoughts.

People mention my brother as a joke to me. It hurts yet it doesn't. I'm numb to the pain but I want to feel it. He's my brother. He's spiraling out of control and he's doing drugs and he has a detention and he missed the detention and my mom's crying and my dad is yelling obscenities and I'm reading words that dissolve into sounds that dissolve into thoughts.

My brother once told me that he had a feeling he was going to die young. He said that when he was 8 he knew he was only going to live to be 25. I told him that he's crazy but something in my heart told me that he was right. He's microwaving something right now and I fear that the microwaves are giving him cancer that is going to lie dormant until he is 25.

He talks to me about why God is stupid and why evolution isn't. I tell him that dogs become dogs and he gets belligerent and walks away. I try to do my homework but instead I get on Neoseeker because no one sees me crying there. I cry tears of anger and of sadness and of remorse for losing a brother at the age of 25 who is upstairs watching TV. The tears are hot and nonexistent but I wish they were real.

In my mind I call him a joke but I am still waiting for a punchline. All that comes is bitterness and remorse and I try to look past the drugs but all I see is the cigars. I think of a good time we had and the first thing that comes to mind is his guitar. I try to envy his musical talents but I don't like the guitar. The guitar in my mind reeks of failure and marijuana.

All I want is a brother to look up to.

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The DS' innovative dual-screen design and touch screen interface has brought about a lot of ambitious efforts from companies. Games like Trauma Center: Under the Knife and Elite Beat Agents show how well the unique setup of the DS can be utilized to create a new and fun gaming experience.

But if there's one company who's taken the touch screen design to a new level, it's 5th Cell. The company developed Drawn to Life and Lock's Quest, two games whose gameplay mechanics are almost entirely dependent on the DS touch screen. And the latest offering from that company looks to push the innovation to a new level. The game's title: Scribblenauts.

Scribblenauts is so ambitious because basically, the game is only limited by your own imagination. The game is a platforming collector game, where you collect things called "Starites." But these Starites are not in a place that is normally accessible to you, so you must use some sort of help.

That's where the fun comes in. You get to choose what tool you use. So if the Starite is in a tree, you can spell out "ladder" on the touch screen, and then you could climb it and get the Starite. Or, maybe you would rather have a bird that would fly up into the tree and retrieve the Starite. The possibilities are endless, and that's why I am so amazed at this innovative design.

IGN got the chance to interview the creator of this game, which you can read here. He talks about the limitations of the design process as well as the idea behind it.

quote
IGN: Okay, so in the trailer – that people need to check out, by the way – you can see that you write down a ladder and can then climb up it, right? Now could you also turn that ladder on its side and instead light it on fire and the tree would then burn, since it's all made of would.

Miah: You could, yup. You can flip objects, you can take an axe and cut the ladder in half if you wanted – not sure why you'd do it, but you could if you wanted – and even if it wouldn't help anything in that situation you can do it. That's half the fun of the game really. You can just do anything. It's all about messing around with these objects and properties and seeing what you come up with and how you can solve problems. That's what's really fun about showing off this game to people so far. They look at it and say "Wow. So wait, can I do this and this and this" and then of course, yes, you can.
After reading that interview, I am incredibly excited for the game. The interview hinted at possible online play, which makes me even more excited. I think it kind of sounds like a DS Little Big Planet, but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, enjoy the interview as well as the attached gameplay trailer.



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Well, I've made my fair share of blog posts now, so I figure it's time that I take a break from all my video game related rants. If you were one of the few who enjoyed my little outbursts of rambling, I will be back to them soon. But, for now I just wanted to rant about something that isn't really about video games, per say, but more about the culture surrounding them.

Hi, I'm Eric. I joined Neoseeker in May 2005 under the name dsluva4life2, and then changed my name to Tainted in early 2006. I am the moderator of the Wii Sports section and I used to moderate Mario Kart DS and The World Ends With You. In my spare time I play video games and hang out with friends.

What if I were to have told you this in real life, while we were standing in line at Wendy's? Would you have dismissed me as weird even though you also visit the website that I mentioned? Would you refuse to acknowledge the existence of said site and insist that I am nothing but a nerd? Or would you respond back with your own Neo name and then continue the conversation about Neoseeker?

I'd venture to say that the majority of people reading this blog would choose one of the first two options. I say this because on the one hand, introducing myself as Tainted is a very odd thing to do, and would be very off-putting to anyone, but also because even though we live in a gaming world, society still casts out the nerds and geeks that spend their time browsing the various internet forums at their disposal.

I'm not saying that every Neoseeker member is a loser; in fact, I'm sure that none of you are. (<3) But that is because we don't live our lives as the persona that we take on once we enter the online realm. Sure, online I know a lot about Mario Kart DS and the Nintendo DS in general. But offline I do not approach people with this knowledge like I would online. There is a line in the sand that society still refuses to let us cross.

Gosh, this is making absolutely no sense. If you do not understand what I'm trying to do with this post, you are not alone. I am still trying to figure out where to take this blog, and what kind of revelation I should have. I keep staring blankly at the screen, trying to rationalize the words that I type and hope that I will suddenly get an epiphany and this post will make a lot more sense.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that even though the world's view of video games has changed dramatically as the culture has made gaming mainstream, the people who entertain themselves with Neoseeker and other gaming forums are not outwardly accepted by society.

Let me give you an example. My group of friends are nerds; there's nothing wrong with that, but that's what we are. One of my friends is an avid Runescape player, and another listens to a Nintendo blog religiously. But as soon as they found out that I visited Neoseeker regularly, I became the nerdiest of all of us.

Why? I really, really don't understand their thought process with that. At least I interact with other people when I visit Neoseeker, and I have even met a lot of really close friends as a result. But all they have is +74 farming and useless Nintendo knowledge.

I think that forums should be much more readily accepted by today's society, which is already much more accepting of nerds and geeks than it once was. I think most people have the idea that all forums are inhabited by Pokemon-obsessed preteens, which could very well be the case, but because of the anonymity of the Internet people get to be whoever they want to be. It's just natural that most choose to be themselves, or so I am led to believe.

Did this blog make any sense? I really don't think it did. If you manage to decipher what I wrote here, kudos. I'm off to go flame some n00b who is talking trash about Pikachu.

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If you're like me, you are probably not very happy with Nintendo. I've had a few tirades against the Wii here in this blog, and I could probably continue these rants for a few years if I wanted to. But, in an attempt to retain some credibility in this blog, I'm going to try something a little different. Thus, I present to you...

Extending the life of your Nintendo DS
5 small tips to retain your faith in Nintendo's dual-screened fiend.

Are you broke like me? If you are both a DS owner and broke, then you are probably finding it hard to get enjoyment out of your DS. Well, I'm here to share with you a few ways to put some life back into the DS. 5 ways, in fact.

5. Invest in Homebrew

One of the best decisions I made when I had some cash was investing in a slot-1 Homebrew device. Basically, homebrew allows you to download homebrew applications onto the DS cartridge, which you can then use on your DS. It's nothing compared to the wide array of options available to PSP owners, but it is definitely a wise purchase. Not only have people made games, but there are also a ton of helpful homebrew applications to choose from, such as web browsers and Instant Messengers. For more information about Homebrew, check out this thread.

4. Share With Friends

Someone mentioned this in another blog, but I figured that it was worth a mention here. If you have an old game lying around that you don't really want to play anymore, trade it with a friend for a different game. I have received a few games this way, and it's been a huge benefit for someone like me, who may not have a steady cash flow.

3. WiFi = Longevity

When you go to buy a new game, look for the WiFi symbol on the box. Online multiplayer options can add hours of play time on to the game, and will increase the replayability of the game. WiFi is always a plus when dealing with DS games, so make sure you look into it.

2. Make Use of Offline Multiplayer Capabilities

This may seem obvious, but make good use of the single-card download ability of some games. If you don't have a copy of Clubhouse Games, for example, but your friend does, you can still have a ton of fun using the Single-Card download capabilities. And if you all have the same game, the Multi-Card options are usually much more robust, and is a ton of fun. I still have a ton of fun playing Mario Kart DS with a group of three other people, and that game has been out since 2005!

1. Revisit!

My number one tip for increasing the life of your DS is pretty simple: Revisit old games! I understand that some games grow tiresome after playing for weeks on end, but remember that the game will feel fresh and new a year down the road. So if you can't afford to pick up the latest Final Fantasy game, give your old copy of Final Fantasy III another playthrough. If you don't want to play through the entire game again, then try and complete all the sidequests in the game, or maybe spend your time maxing out the stats of your characters. There are plenty of things to do in games if you look for them.

And games without a linear story are great to replay! Games like Mario Kart DS, Tetris DS, Animal Crossing: Wild World, and Harvest Moon DS are all great titles to play in short spurts, especially if you haven't played them in awhile.

----

There you have it. These tips aren't really revolutionary ideas or anything, but they are tips that have helped me get through times when I couldn't splurge on a new game. I hope these may be of some use to you!

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Courtesy of kotaku.com


I was looking for some Nintendo news today and I came across this little diddy. It's not a new interview, but one that I haven't seen before. It's MTV blogger Stephen Totilo's interview with Cammie Dunaway. In it, she talks about games to expect next year. Now, here's the question that I am hung up on:

quote
Multiplayer: You mentioned two third-party titles. But maybe not since “Metroid,” which was last August or September, has Nintendo internal created a title that we would probably agree is squarely targeted at that audience I spoke of. Does that need to happen more with first-party development?

Dunaway: You tell me… I would assume that a title like [Nintendo-published 3D shoot-em-up] “Sin & Punishment” — and bringing that [intellectual property] to the U.S. for the first time — would start to get at that action-seeking, thrill-seeking need that that audience has. “Punch-Out,” while it may be more of a Nintendo fanboy [kind of game], still, I think, gets at that need for action.
Umm... what was that you just said? As a hardcore gamer, I am supposed to accept Punch Out as the next hardcore title? Sure, Sin and Punishment 2 is a good move, but Punch Out? Really? Next, you're going to tell me that Wii Sports Resort is the Wii's Halo killer, right?

This got me thinking about what Nintendo's first party support is shaping up to be in the coming year. And that led me to the picture you see at the top of this post.

What new games do you see on there? Wii Sports Resort, Punch Out, and Sin and Punishment 2. That's it. We get a few Gamecube ports that I don't really care about, and three new titles. What the heck Nintendo? You used to be so good about maintaining a heavy flow of first party games. Now it's like you don't even care anymore.

I guess this is just another piece of evidence that proves that I am a disgruntled Nintendo follower. Maybe they are keeping their new projects under wraps, but something tells me that Nintendo isn't going to deliver much in the coming year. They are probably just going to sit back and bask in the success of the Wii.

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So I'm sitting here bored out of my mind, trying to decide what to do. My TV is turned off because there is nothing engaging my interests at the moment. I could try and take a nap, but I'm as aware as I'll ever be and I don't think my body would respond well to me shutting it down. I could hit the my.neoforum button over and over again until something new comes up, but I already do that all day every day.

What about video games? I could probably get a half an hour of enjoyment out of my DS, but trying to beat my Time Trials records on Mario Kart DS is frustrating anymore. And I gave back the copy of Animal Crossing: Wild World I was borrowing, so my options are limited to Pokemon, Digimon, Mario Kart, and the new Castlevania game that I have already beat. So I'm going to skip picking up my DS, although that's not the purpose of this blog.

And as for my Nintendo Wii? That's almost laughable at this point. My Wii is actually packed up in its carrying case because I took it to a friend's house. I ended up not using it there, and I haven't had the motivation to set it up again. At my friends house we play Guitar Hero: World Tour and a bit of Brawl, but it wasn't as much gaming as I had expected. What did we do instead? Spent hours using the "Compare People" application on Facebook.

You are probably thinking one of two things: 1.) How on Earth is Facebook more fun than the Nintendo Wii? or 2.) Why are you hanging out with losers who spend their days using the "Compare People" application on Facebook? To the latter, I can't offer much of an explanation. But to the first though, I can say this: I am losing my faith in the Nintendo Wii, and am currently facing a huge case of Buyer's Remorse.

Back in November 2006 when I bought the Wii, I was in love. Wii Sports was cute and fun and all of that, and even my parents were getting in on the action. I bought Red Steel along with my Wii, and I even got a lot of enjoyment out of that sub par game. Things were great.

The first year of the Wii's lifetime were pretty exciting. Games like Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and WarioWare: Smooth Moves graced my Wii for hours upon hours at a time. The first party support for the system was incredible, even if the third party support was still a bit lackluster.

But now there seems to be a huge role reversal in terms of game quality: Nintendo offers a new Animal Crossing title, and Wii Music, while third party developers pump out titles like Guitar Hero: World Tour, de Blob, Call of Duty: World at War, The Conduit. It's almost like Nintendo is purposely cutting me off, leaving me with no options and a bad taste in my mouth.

Don't get me wrong here; Nintendo has brought some stellar titles to the Wii. I still play Brawl whenever I have a group of friends over, and games like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Paper Mario brought me endless hours of delight. But what do I have now? A crappy music simulator and the promise of good games next year. What if I don't want to wait until next year?

Nintendo seems to have thrown me under the proverbial bus in favor of the larger crowd of casual gamers. It's like Miyamoto has thrown up the bird in my face while conducting a cacophonous symphony of grandma's playing Wii Music. And the sad thing is, I am just going to sit here and take it.

Why? Well, for starters, I'm dead broke. Being broke means that I can't go out and buy a 360 out of spite. Believe me, I would if I could. The 360 has so many good games it hurts. Mirror's Edge, Halo 3, Left 4 Dead, Dead Space, even the latest FIFA is supposed to be tons of fun. But I won't have the opportunity to play any of those games because I'm stuck with Nintendo's ill-fated little bugger.

And I won't be selling the Wii. I am actually pretty excited about Wii MotionPlus (which is really just another middle finger from Nintendo, but that's for a different day, and a different rant), and more importantly, The Conduit. The Conduit is really the one game that is preventing me from driving to my nearest GameStop and getting 30 bucks for my mint condition Wii and 12 games.

So there you have it. A rant from a peeved Nintendo fan who can't find any redeemable qualities about the Wii at present. Is there hope for the console? I think so. Nintendo has always been a producer of high quality first party titles, and I haven't completely lost my faith in the company.

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I apologize for straying from my normal gaming rants, but I have a request for you guys. I was hoping for some feedback on the color scheme of my blog. I like it, but I'm not sure if it's pleasing to the eye. I would like to hear feedback, as well as any suggestions that you may have regarding the color scheme of my blog. Thanks guys!

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You know what I don't get? I don't understand what makes life simulation games so fun. Games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing have no purpose; there are no immediate goals, there is no endpoint, and to be honest, there really is no motivation to do well in the game other than having the satisfaction of succeeding. You just... live. And yet this genre of games is wildly popular, and in my opinion very entertaining. Why is that?

What got me thinking about this was a game called Final Fantasy Chronicles: My Life as a King. My friend is addicted to this game, and I don't really understand why. Basically, you play as a new king who is trying to keep the town running smoothly. To do this, you run around town, and instruct people to do stuff, like fight monsters and learn new abilities.

...and that's it. You don't get to actually fight the monsters, and you don't get to use the new abilities. You just instruct people to do these things, and sit back and wait for the results. You occasionally get to build a new building somewhere in the town, but other than that your day consists of making orders and running aimlessly through the town, trying to find more people to give orders to.

Where's the appeal in that? You don't do anything except help your town grow. And you barely even get to do that, with only a few commands at your disposal. But I guess this is just one type of game in the Life Simulation category, which includes titles like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. And this is a genre which I am addicted to, and cannot figure out why.

Harvest Moon is a bit more structured than Animal Crossing, I guess, since you want your farm to succeed and you want to nurture it until it becomes a large farm with lots of animals and crops. Plus, you get to option to marry someone if you properly woo them. But to attain this goal you have to work, meaning that you will spend your days planting, hoeing, harvesting, selling, lather, rinse, repeat. Sounds pretty tedious, right?

Wrong. Not only is the Harvest Moon series very popular, it is also extremely fun to play. I remember renting Harvest Moon 64 back in the day, and playing it for hours on end. For some reason, I was completely immersed in this rural atmosphere before me, and I loved it. I could spend days planting carrots, selling carrots, eating carrots, whatever. There's some sort of charm that surrounds this genre, which is hard to understand considering the mundane premise of living life on a farm.

Animal Crossing is even less structured. You move into a town with a few animal neighbors, and your goal is to, well... uh... live? Honestly, there is no goal in Animal Crossing; you just play. You can fish, catch bugs, rearrange the furniture in your house, whatever. There's no real goal in Animal Crossing; the game only encourages you to have fun and live.

Sure, there are things you can accomplish. If you want you can try to collect every fish, bug, and fossil in the Museum. You can upgrade your house to the biggest available, as long as you pay off your mortgage. You can even upgrade the town store by simply shopping there. These may not sound like very fun goals to achieve, but remember that you don't have to do any of these things. If you want, you can spend your days planting new trees around the town and keeping it weed free.

And although I may describe it as being a boring game with little to do, I am absolutely enthralled by it; moreso than Harvest Moon even. I've spent an entire day running back and forth along the shore, fishing whenever I see the shadow underneath the water's surface. I've spent some days making a horror movie with my friend over WiFi (haha, that was a fun day). As long as you have the imagination to keep the game fun, the game will keep you entertained.

But why? Why are these games so entertaining? I've tried to find an answer to that question, and I can't. They seem so... basic. So mind numbingly boring. Without any real purpose, the games just seem like they would be unfun. But every time I pick the game up, I have a ball.

Maybe the lack of a purpose is what drives the games. Maybe because I have the choice to let the weeds grow in my town, it drives me to want to clean them up. Maybe because I don't have to pay off my mortgage, it drives me to sell fish to Tom Nook and get that bigger house. I don't really know. But whatever the case, the appeal of these life simulation games doesn't seem to be fading.

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I figure that it's time I bring out my Christmas list for this year. I'm going to break it down into two categories: Realistic things and unrealistic things. The latter will be the really expensive things that I wouldn't ever really get for Christmas, or things that I wouldn't be able to use if I got them.

Realistic Items:

Animal Crossing: City Folk - I'm not going to lie here. I haven't touched my Wii in a month or more. In fact, it actually was packed away in its carrying case until yesterday when I considered playing it, but then settled on one of those "Plug-N-Play" Pacman games instead. Anyway, at this point it's pretty clear to me that I'm in need of a solid Wii game to keep me interested in the system, and City Folk is that game. I know it is not much of an upgrade from Wild World, but I am still an avid Animal Crossing fan and I can't wait to mess around in the City. Once I get my WiFi fixed I'll be sure to pick up Wii Speak as well, so I can actually interact with my friends online.

Guitar Hero: World Tour - Yes, I know that there have been some issues with the drums, and the game lacks polish, but I shall remind you readers that the only next gen system that I own is the Nintendo Wii. This means that my options are pretty limited in terms of band games. And from what I've heard, Vicarious Visions has put tons of cool features in this game, and has made sure the the Wii version did not get completely screwed. And so I am still excited to get my hands on this game, if only because of the inclusion of Float On.

Nintendo DS Lite - You are probably wondering why I would be wanting a Lite right after the announcement of the DSi, and I am not completely sure myself. But, I do know that the battery on my original DS is failing, and I am only getting one hour per charge. And honestly, after hearing about the poor quality of the pictures from the cameras, I've realized that paying that extra 30 bucks for DSware is pretty ridiculous. So I am going for a DS Lite.

Unrealistic Items:

Xbox 360 - I was extremely disappointed to learn that my brother was selling his Xbox 360. But, since he bought it with his own money, I had no say in the matter and soon enough it was gone. And so now, in the midst of all the high quality titles being pumped out on the system, I am forced into staring at my Wii, hoping that somehow I will magically obtain some Wii points and finally relieve me of this drought that I've experienced.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare - Whenever my friends talk about how much fun they had in Zombie Mode, I can do nothing but sit in my chair and squirm. The game looks awesome, and I am itching to get my hands on it.

Mirror's Edge - Wow. This game looks absolutely breathtaking, and I am sure that I would enjoy it. I am anxiously awaiting the day that I get to play it.

Left 4 Dead - Co-operative zombie killing? That just sounds awesome. I picture something like Dead Rising, but with first person mechanics and a friend that can play with you. It's everything I wanted in a game, and Valve is at the helm. How awesome is that?

So, there you have it. As you can tell, I'm experiencing some buyer's remorse with my Wii purchase, but I haven't completely lost hope yet. However, I am now much more inclined to go purchase a 360, if only my budget would allow it.

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Note: The Thanksgiving break has given me a lot of free time. And giving free time will lead to me thinking about random crap, which leads to me writing about that random crap here. So if you are wondering why I am writing so frequently, and why they are about really random topics, it's because I am reaaaaly bored right now. XD

I was watching TV with my dad a few hours ago, and a commercial for Guitar Hero: World Tour came on. It was the one where Derek Jeter, Tony Hawk, Michael Phelps, and Kobe Bryant are jamming out to "Old Time Rock and Roll" like in that one Tom Cruise movie. So anyway, as they each came on screen my dad was naming them off, trying to figure out who they were (he recognized all of them right off-the-bat, except for Tony Hawk). I thought it was a cool commercial, and I thought he did too.

But then he turned to me and said, "You know, I've never understood the concept of that kind of game." I was pretty shocked. Having owned all Guitar Hero games previously, I thought my Dad understood the entertainment in playing rhythm games like that. So I asked him, "What do you mean? Games like Guitar Hero?"

Turns out he was talking about band games, such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero: World Tour. "No, like those complete band games," he said. "I just think it seems kind of sad. Like, you get a bunch of friends together to play in a fake band."

Well, to be honest, I didn't really have much to say back to him. The way he perceives those games, I guess it does seem kind of sad. It's almost like you can't get a real band together, so instead you just pick up the faux Les Paul and jam with your friends. Instead of practicing in your garage until the cops are called on you, you simply turn the volume down and continue your 6th playthrough of Enter Sandman.

So are band games really that pitiful? I think it depends on how you look at them. If you go in wanting to have fun and play a game, then I don't think it's sad at all. After all, these are still video games we are talking about, and because they are entertaining they should still be regarded as such. So it is not sad to pop in a copy of Rock Band 2 and play along with three of your friends.

But, at the same time, I think that my Dad made a nice point: band games shouldn't really be used for living out your dream of starting a band. Beating Guitar Hero on Expert will not help you learn face melting solos on the real guitar. And just because you can pass the vocals part of Dani California in Rock Band doesn't mean that you are a good singer.

I guess the main purpose of this post is to bring up a new perspective on these virtual band games. I'm sure that my dad isn't alone in his beliefs that these games are made for depressing teenagers who are living out their dream of starting a band in this virtual realm. But personally, I don't think that this genre is pitiful in any way. At the end of the day it's just a different way to approach gaming, and there's nothing wrong with that.

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If there's one thing I've never understood, it's why the day after Thanksgiving has become the most prominent shopping day of the year. After a day of gluttony, it would seem that the next day would be filled with laziness and recovery from the gigantic meal that took place a day previous. But Black Friday has become the craziest, most cutthroat shopping holiday of the season, and even in the midst of an economic drought it should still be just as hectic as ever.

Before I delve any further into this discussion, I should probably explain Black Friday to all you non-Americans. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, when the Christmas shopping season officially starts. Businesses offer huge sales on hot items, and open much earlier than normal. People rush to these stores as early as 4 AM, because the wanted items would be sold out otherwise.

Taking a quick look at the Wikipedia Article, it seems that Black Friday began as a result of the Christmas parades that happened on Thanksgiving. Department stores like Macy's endorsed these parades, but other than that, it was understood that no advertising would take place until the next day, which would be the day after Thanksgiving. This evolved into offering good deals on that day, which evolved further into those horrific 4 AM sales that you see today.

If you have ever watched a video of some of these Black Friday shoppers, you will see the complete chaos within stores. Before the brink of dawn, hundreds of people are piling into local Best Buys and K-Marts searching for the best deals. People run wildly throughout the stores in search of that one gift that will make the entire shopping escapade worthwhile. People will shove, kick, and punch their way through the crowd in order to see that loving look on their child's face when they open up the Nintendo Wii that mom punched some lady out to obtain.

My mom once told me a story about one of her experiences on Black Friday. She literally ran to the video game department to find the game that I wanted, and when she saw that no employees were there she realized that she was about to get overrun by hundreds of angry mom's wishing to purchase video games as well. So, in order to protect her position in line, she threw her arms around the game case and held on with an iron grip until an associate tended to her.

Does all this seem a bit ridiculous to you? Because it definitely does to me. I mean, sure, the deals can be pretty awesome, but is it really worth the risk of getting trampled by hundreds of soccer moms? And besides, why would anyone in their right mind want to wake up at 3:30 in the morning just to get 50% off on a GPS system?

I think my biggest qualm with Black Friday is the fact that Thanksgiving is holiday of laziness. It's a proven fact that there is a protein in turkey that caused tiredness (it's called tryptophan. For more information, check out this site.) After eating your weight in turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pumpkin pie, and whatever else your family might enjoy, you want nothing more than to sit back in your recliner and doze off to the monotone voice of John Madden. But apparently, people are still motivated enough to get out of bed the next morning and hit the nearest Kohl's in search of the best Star Clearance Sale.

In conclusion, I should first apologize for turning this entry into a Black Friday advertisement (Buy two games get one free at Toys R Us!) But seriously, it never ceases to amaze me just how dedicated some people are in their quest to fulfill their child's Christmas wishes. I guess I shouldn't complain though, since I reap all the spoils of this day thanks to my mom's dedication and strong grip. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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In a video game world dominated by heart pumping action and quick, responsive control systems, it is pretty rare to find a turn-based role playing game in the headlines as a best selling title or a highly anticipated game. Games like Halo 3, Call of Duty 5, and even the Madden series are all games that I would lump into the category of "instant gratification" games. You want your character to do a certain action, so you press a button and immediately it responds on screen. And there's nothing wrong with that, but where's the love for classic, turn-based RPGs that were so popular back in the days of the SNES?

Final Fantasy was a hugely successful game on Nintendo's flagship system, the NES. The game featured advanced graphics on the system, as well as an in-depth weapon and armor system that seemed to transcend the limitations of the era. And the series took off, spawning numerous sequels and offshoot titles.

When you think of a mainstream RPG, what do you think of? For me, the first thing that comes to mind is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The game was not your typical RPG; it was an action RPG that traded in turn-based combat in favor of live action. It was a huge seller on the Xbox 360 and was the first RPG to sell on the system.

A more recent example of a mainstream RPG would be Mass Effect, the Bioware RPG that seemed to draw from the battle system used in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The system is mostly real time; you get to control your character and the aiming of his weapons in real time. But, if you want to switch weapons or biotics, you have to go to an "attack wheel" sort of thing.

What I'm getting at here is that the mainstream RPG is not what you might think of when you imagine a traditional RPG. It seems that the genre has drifted away from what it once was, and is now just a shadow of its former self. To be popular in the gaming industry today, an RPG has to fit into the "instant gratification" style of play. Turn-based RPGs are seen as tedious and too much effort for the common gamer, who prefers to twitch shooting of games like Halo.

Don't get me wrong here; I love the feeling of mowing someone down with a Battle Rifle as much as the next guy. But when it comes to RPGs, I prefer the slow, turn-based system of games like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and dare I say it, Pokemon. Something about the mind-numbing level grinding and unbearably long boss battles gives me that contentedness that others get from their FPS and Action games.

Where am I going with this? Well, I am trying to figure out what kind of effect mainstream gaming has on the RPG genre. While it is good to see that the genre is alive and well for all gamers, but at the same time, what if the turn-based games of yesteryear seem to fade away into oblivion (ok, sorry, that is a terrible pun)? I know that's a pretty ludicrous thought, but there's no telling what effect the mainstream taste in video games will have on the genre.

One thing I have noticed, however: the turn-based genre is alive and well on the Nintendo DS. Square Enix has had a very successful life on Nintendo's handheld, porting over classic Final Fantasy titles with updated graphics and new features. I am delighting in this, picking up title after title of turn-based RPGs and loving every minute of it. If there is one console where the traditional RPG is still going strong, it is on the DS.

So what are my final thoughts on this matter? Well, I think that my opinion on this is as crude and jumbled as this blog entry itself. I feel like the console turn-based RPG is a dying genre; the mindset of gamers has shifted into the "instant gratification" way of thinking that we see in so many other things outside of gaming. However, I am excited at the continued success of traditional RPGs on handheld systems, and feel like the system is bright. Now if you excuse me, I have a few random encounters to get into.

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What's up guys? Basically, I am going to be using this blog to work on my writing skills, and to rant and rave about whatever video game topic comes to mind. I might occasionally post a user review of mine up here, because I think it would garner more feedback this way. Anyway, this isn't much yet, but expect some awesomeness coming soon!

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