Sunday, March 25, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?

From a recent Honeybaked Hams advertisment flyer:

My ever - vigilant fiancee' Monique noticed that something's not quite right here.

Can't see it?

Mom's got a glass of wine in front of her. Dad's got a beer. Junior's got...a glass of wine in front of him with kind of a smirk on his face.

Wow, looks like Honeybaked Hams is "setting the standard" for underage drinking. You go Junior!

The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess

I'm ten hours into the flagship title for the Nintendo Wii, The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess, and the game has thus far turned out every bit as amazing as I hoped it would be.

The controls are highly intuitive and easy to grasp, with the Wiimote and the nunchuck making a perfect pairing. It looked awkward in the pictures that were released of other people playing the game, really, but in practice I don't even notice anything but the game experience in front of me.

And it's yet another Zelda masterpiece in a long history of them. It plays like another Ocarina of Time, with a lot of the same systems introduced in that game, such as locking on to a foe. Yet it still has the same musical tones that date back to the first Legend of Zelda game, such as making a discovery and opening a chest.

In fact, that's the only real point I have to make about the game, other than I am having a blast with it. As I walk and ride through this newest visit to the world of Hyrule, I am reminded of the glorious past visits I have made. Every little thing that has carried over from previous Zeldas that presents itself to me is a wonderful reminder of those visits, while being new and fresh in this one. Can any long-running series of games make the same claim? I think not.

It's the sheer weight of this evolution of this series that is impressive. Sure, I'm seeing a lot of the same locations I did in the past - Hyrule Field, Kakariko Village, and Death Mountain so far - but this is a whole new adventure and it's introducing new aspects, too. I'll be playing this incredible videogame for some time, no doubt.

Monday, March 19, 2007

WiiQuest : Conclusion

Sunday morning began for me at 6 AM, after a mere four hours of sleep. I got showered, filled a thermos with hot chocolate, scraped a layer of thick frost off of my car, and headed to the Toys R Us that had promised me Nintendo Wiis in stock the previous evening.

It was still pre-dawn when I arrived at about 6:50 AM. There was a car alredy sitting there with two guys in it, and they noticed me pulling up alongside. They did not get out of their car, however, when I got out and walked to the entrance to the store. It was about 26 degrees outside when I sat down on the cold cement.

Since they had arrived first, I decided to offer no objection to them getting in line first if they choose to do so. Then a strange thing happened. Another car pulled up, and when it did, the two guys from the first car got out and approached the new car. The driver got out, too, with a boxed Wii in his hands.

Apparently, from what I could eavesdrop, the seller was a Toys R Us employee who had purchased a Wii a few weeks earlier and no longer wanted it. He had seen the two guys camping out(they had claimed to have been there since 2 AM), and offered to sell them his Wii. When their transaction was completed, both cars sped away, leaving me alone in the freezing dark, but first in line. By now it was a few minutes after 7 AM and the first glint of the coming sunrise was appearing in the eastern sky, which I was facing.

A few minutes later a pickup truck pulled up and a young guy got out and sat down next to me. He confirmed that I, too, was trying to get a Wii. We talked a few minutes about the whole thing, and it turned out he was a college student from Cincinnatti who wanted one for his upcoming spring break. We were now officially a line.

At about 7:15 the store manager shows up and walks over to us to confirm we were camping for Wiis. He made a joke - "What would you do if I told you we didn't have any?" - before confirming that they in fact had around thirty Wiis to sell that morning, and that he would be giving out tickets for them to the prople in line.

This was great news. Now it was just a matter of waiting. The conversation with young guy died down and we both just sat there freezing for awhile. The sunrise seemed to stall out for the time being, with the same glint of light not getting any brighter on the eastern horizon.

At about 7:45 another guy joined the line and I told him about the ample supply the manager promised us. He seemed relieved, as he was hoping to get one for his son's birthday tomorrow. The three of us only conversed briefly and then went back to waiting. The new guy messed with his PDA for awhile, and I tried to play some Phoenix Wright : JFA for a few minutes, but the bitter cold made it impossible to concentrate. I was beginning to regret not wearing two pairs of socks, as my toes were getting numb.

I stood up and walked around in place for awhile to keep my feet from freezing. The sun had finally decided to come up and join us, but its warmth had yet to make a difference. I rationed out my hot chocolate, enjoying a cup every half an hour or so.

At 8:45 another person joined the line, a younger guy with a shaved head, wearing a Matrix-style long coat and glasses. He thought the store opened at 9 AM, but his disappointment at learning he had a longer wait than he thought was offset by hearing that there were plenty of Wiis for all of us. The conversation between the four of us kicked up again. He was there to buy one for his pregnant wife, who had wanted one after they had played Wii Sports at a friend's house. I thought pregnant women craved pickles and ice cream, not Wiis. We live in a strange new world.

At 9:00 a mother with a nerdy overweight son joined our line. The sun had finally began warming things up a little bit, and the fact that we were in our last hour of waiting helped my mood. At 9:20 the floodgates opened and people were joining us on a regular basis all the way up until the store opened at 10 AM.

The manager came out and announced to the line - about sixteen people at my last count - that they had about thirty Wiis, that he was going to hand out tickets, and that once you had one you had a Wii, as long as you used the ticket up by 2 PM. He also said that if you purchased a game with the Wii you would get a thirty dollar Toys R Us gift card. I thought about getting either Marvel : Ultimate Alliance (they were showing commercials for it back at Christmas where the player was using the Wiimote to throw Captain America's shield), or Elebits.

I was first, so I got my ticket and proceeded to the videogame section, where there were two clerks waiting. It was here that I found out that the real deal was that if you purchased only the game Sonic : The Secret Rings with your Wii did you get the gift card. Not wanting that game, I instead opted to get the extended protection plan for $24. I jokingly asked the clerk after my sale if security was available to escort me to my car with my precious Wii, and he laughed, saying I wouldn't need it.

As I left, I passed the others in line and held up my Wii above my head triumphantly, making a fool of myself in the process, no doubt. Last in line was Matrix-guy, holding a game, and I stopped to tell him that the deal was with the Sonic game only. He thanked me and went to put whatever game he had choosen back on the shelves.

I had no trouble on the way to my car, and raced home to hook it up. At home, I got my tooklit and my other Wii items out of storage - a copy of The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess, my extra Wiimote, my 2000 WiiPoints card, and the classic controller. I began by carefully unpacking the Wii itself. The packaging was nice and organized, and I looked through everything before I began the setup.

Once I found the quick setup guide, it was easy. Sensor bar, then the usual power and video cables. I had to make a choice at this point. My switchbox only has five channels to it. I currently have a DVD, a VCR, PS2, X-Box, and Gamecube hooked up to it. One of them had to go to make room for the Wii. The logical choice would be the Gamecube since the Wii is backwards compatable with it. There's just one little thing, though - the GameBoy Advance player on the GameCube. I actually use it more than I use the X-Box, so the X-Box gets unhooked. I didn't pack up the X-Box though, so if I decide I want to play it again, I just need to switch a few wires around. No big deal.

I powered up the system and set the switchbox to the right place and had the startup screens. Next was the Wiimotes - I put the batteries in them and synched them up to the Wii. They are little marvels. They feel right in one's hand and they vibrate a little bit when something on the screen is highlighted. My concern that I would constantly get the two of them confused was alleviated when I found that the pointer for each one on the screen had the controller number in it, and little blue LEDs on the controllers themselves indicated which one they were. Brilliant.

The main screen has a bunch of little screens indicating the various channels available. The first one is whatever disc is in the drive. The second one is the Mii channel, where one creates a little avatar of themselves for various uses such as Wii Sports and other titles yet to come. Third is a photo channel, where a regular SD memory card can be inserted into the Wii so that you can look at your pictures. Next is the Wii store, then the Weather channel, then the news channel.

To access all of this I needed to connect my Wii to the internet. Fortunately, I had long ago purchased the Nintendo USB Wi-Fi adapter for my computer, which I used occasionally to play Nintendo DS games via Wi-Fi. The setup was relatively painless, under Wii's settings menu. Like the DS, though, I still have a problem with my firewall blocking it even when it's set up to allow it. I cannot figure it out for the life of me, so I have to drop my firewall when I connect either the DS or Wii.

Once my Wii was connected, I ran a test and it downloaded a patch for it that took a few minutes. Wow, I patched a console. That felt weird. Freshly connected, I decided to check out the Wii Store and see what I could get for my 200 Wii points. They had a small selection of games from the NES, SNES, N64, Genesis, and Turbografx 16 systems. Under the free section, though, I found a free trial version of the Opera internet browser, so I got that first.

Before long I was surfing the net from the comfort of my living room sofa. I got a few website addresses off my PC and typed them in and added the sites to my favorites. Typing things in with the Wiimote is slow, but is helped by a process where, after you type the first few letters of a word, it presents a few possible conclusions for you to select from to finish the work quickly. These choices appear in a bar above the keyboard. Type "th" for example, and the words "the" "this" and so forth appear in the bar.

I even updated my blog with the previous article using this process. I also was able to go to YouTube and watch my Ultima X Odyssey video. Very cool. While surfing you use the + and - buttons on the Wiimote to zoom in for clarity. The Opera browser has some issues with strange fonts, though, and converted some of my personal website fonts to Arial, messing up the page.

I put in Zelda but only long enough to create a save file. I played a round of Wii Sports bowling with my freshly-minted Mii character. I purchased the Turbografx 16 puzzle/maze chase game Fu Man Chu for 600 Wii points and played it awhile. By this time it was late afternoon, and my fiancee' was set to return from work soon, so I took a brief nap.

When she got home we went out to catch a movie we'd both been wanting to see - 300 - and it was an amazing epic. We spent some time together that evening, running a few errands, before heading home. It was her turn to cook, so she put a pork roast in the oven. While it was working, I helped her create a Mii of herself, and we played a round of bowling (she won), a few rounds of baseball (one of which I won with a grand slam home run which caused the game to end because of some mercy rule thing), and a game of tennis. It's safe to say we enjoyed the baseball most of all.

We had dinner, and although I wanted to stay up all night playing with the Wii, I was exhausted. It was a big day but my effort had paid off. My quest fulfilled, I slept like a log, content in the knowlege that while she was at work tomorrow, I would be off all day - and free to sink my teeth into The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess at long last.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wii At Last, Wii at Last !

I am typing this blog entry from the comfort of my living room sofa, using my wiimote and the incredible Opera browser application that I have just downloaded. Yes, I got my Wii this morning, and a full report will be forthcoming. I just wanted to see if I could update my blog like this.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Addicted to Cheap Game Boy Advance Games

As much fun as I've had with my Nintendo DS lately, I am also still enjoying my Game Boy Advance, too. Over the last year and a half, as the system is really starting to wind down, I've been picking up bargain titles for it.

Now, I don't buy the kiddie stuff. The end-cycle for this system has meant that most of the new titles are licensed kid's games, based on popular kid's television and movie franchises. No, I go for the few remaining good, or at least different, items.

In the last few weeks I picked up Archer Maclean's 3D Pool, which is a billiards game of course, Tringo, which is a puzzle game that was created on the massive-multiplayer community of Second Life, oddly enough, and Konami Collector's Series Arcade Advanced, a six-game compilation featuring Frogger, Scramble, Time Pilot, Gyruss, Rush'n Attack, and Yie Ar Kung-Fu. I've only dabbled with these titles a little, but I can say that they make great additions to my Game Boy / Advance / DS collection. I forgot how damn hard Time Pilot was. Sheesh.

Phoenix Wright : AA : JFA Progress

I'm making continued progress through the first great game of 2007, Phoenix Wright : Ace Attorney : Justice for All. Before I continue, for the sake of blogging brevity, I need to come up with a standard short name for the game.

I could simply call it Phoenix Wright 2. Or Phoenix Wright JFA, leaving out the Ace Attorney part. Okay, let's go with Phoenix Wright JFA. We all know he's an Ace Attorney after the first game.

I think that last push I had to make to finish the first game made me a better attorney, too. I am not getting as stuck as I did when playing the first game. Of course, the cases start out pretty simple and get harder as they go on. Tonight, I finished the third episode, called Turnabout Big Top. It involved a murder at a circus, so as you might imagine, I had to deal with a clown and a ventriloquist on the witness stand.

The game is a blast. It has great characters, intriguing mysteries, humor, and tragedy. Plus an ongoing plot about the absence of a major character from the first game that is unfolding through all the episodes. I can't wait to see where it leads. I just wish that stupid judge would take the whip away from Franziska von Karma. The bitch has some serious issues, and it's not going to get better for her as I keep kicking her ass in court.

WiiQuest Update

I decided to stop calling from work during the week. I had no luck in my initial attempts, and the work was too hectic to take any time off to get a Wii, even if one turned up. Which leaves me with one hope - the Sunday morning Wii releases at one of the big chains such as Best Buy, Circuit City, or Toys R Us.

A call I placed this evening to a nearby Toys R Us has given me some hope for tomorrow morning's hunt. The person who answered told me, in a very positive tone, that yes, they would have Wiis for sale at the opening tomorrow, which is at 10 AM. When I inquired about people still camping out, she said yes, sometimes, and threw out a time of 7AM in regards to my question about it.

So, tomorrow, in the freezing cold temperatures of almost-the-start-of-spring-but-it's-still-friggin'-deep-winter Ohio, I will camp out for a Wii. FOUR MONTHS AFTER RELEASE DAY. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

WiiQuest : Day 4

I called the Best Buy from work today around 10:10 AM to see if they had gotten any Wiis in. No dice. I'll try them again the next two days as well as the Wal-Mart near where I work.

My co-workers gave me funny looks because I was using my bluetooth headset while chopping stuff. I am the very model of a modern chef.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More Sword of Fargoal Sessions

I've had a few more Sword of Fargoal sessions. They have all ended in failure.

On one occasion, I again encountered the bug where the C button no longer works to take one up or down stairs. After going through the manual and command summary card again, I noticed that the joystick button can also work to go down the stairs when the player is standing on them. It indeed did work.

On that last session, I got to level 13 before dying to a fyre drake who was hitting me for 30 points or more per hit. I got cocky and stood my ground when I should have ran. Lesson learned.

WiiQuest : Day 3

On Sunday, I got up at the crack of dawn to run out and get a copy of the newspaper. Keep in mind that I worked until 1 AM, then was up with my fiancee' until 4 AM, and that strange new daylight savings switch took effect, so an hour was lost in there.

I came home with the paper to see if either Toys - R - Us, Circuit City, or Best Buy had any Sunday advertising supplements that mentioned a Wii sale. They didn't, so I went back to sleep.

Tomorrow I start daytime hours at work, which means that I will be at work during all the times I was told by the various chains that Wiis get delivered. However, I work close to a Wal-Mart, a Best Buy, and a Circuit City, and have gotten permission from my boss to take off for a half an hour if one comes in.

It's good to work with other gamers.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

WiiQuest : Day 2

Again I hit the stores in my area, plus a few out of my immediate area.

Best Buy : Said to check back on Tuesday.

Wal - Mart : None came in today. Check back tomorrow between 11 AM - 2 PM.

Toys - R - Us : None came in today.

Circuit City (a different one than yesterday): Company may be holding them for a Sunday sale, call Saturday evening to check.

Wal - Mart (a different one): None came in today.

Gamestop (a different one than yesterday): None in stock. The guy there said the European launch of the Wii is cutting into the U.S. supply. He recommended ordering one from their website and just waiting it out.

Toys - R - Us (a different one): None in stock. Possibly being held for a Sunday sale either this week or next, recommended being there at opening on Sunday.

Frustration incarnate. It will be some time before I get my Wii. Next week, I switch over to daytime work hours, Tuesday through Saturday. I may be forced, much against my wishes, to go the eBay route to get a Wii. Damn Nintendo for their shortage. Curse every eBay opportunist who is snatching up the systems for a quick buck.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

WiiQuest : Day 1

Living on the east side of Columbus, Ohio, I have a lot of retail options in my hunt for the elusive Nintendo Wii.

Wal - Mart : I had asked a few young, twentysomething Wal - Mart guys I saw last week about the Wii. They said they've been getting in about a dozen a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday. So I started there around 10:30 AM. There was a middle-aged woman on duty in their electonics department, and she said to check back around 2PM.

EB Games #1 : The guy there said he just sold the last one. I asked "just now" and he said yes, indicating that if I had been there at opening I might have gotten one.

Best Buy : The guy there said they had a few yesterday that sold out. The best days to check there are Tuesday and Thursday.

Meijer : It took me about ten minutes to get some help in their electronics department, and the woman that came to help me had no clue about any shipments. I picked up a classic controller, though, just to have something to show for the day.

Target : The guy there said that they only get shipments every three weeks and had no idea when the next one was due.

Circuit City Ah, those empty boxes. Why display them when there are NO FRIGGIN' WIIS? The guy there said they get them every two to three weeks. He told me the last shipment did indeed have people camping out fot them. They got nine in but only had seven people waiting.

Toys - R - Us : The guy there said to check every Tuesday through Friday between 11 AM and 1 PM.

EB #2 : This is the EB where my friend works. She wasn't in yet, so I left my cell phone number with her co-worker so she could contact me. They had no Wiis and no knowlege of when more were coming. She called me back later in the day and promised to let me know if more arrive. She also promised to hold one for me, but after what happened in December I have little faith in her co-workers to do that.

Sears : The guy here told a tale of their complaints to Sears regional managers about the shortages. He claimed that they should start seeing them in by the end of the month, and it was best to check on Sundays and Thursdays. He said to check the Gamestop across the street, because it was kind of obscured and he got his there at Christmas. He claimed to have seen eight Wiis there unsold at the time. Sure.

Gamestop : Their last shipment was three weeks ago. The guy there said that they are deliberately kept in the dark about the arrival of new Wiis to prevent camping. LOTS of pointless, empty Wii display boxes.

Wal-Mart Again : By now it was 2 PM so I checked back. The same woman went in the back and come out reporting no Wiis.

My first day was a failure. Tomorrow I will return to Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Toys - R - Us. I may venture to other sites as well.

WiiQuest : Prologue

I haven't been one to get a launch system in a long time. In fact, the last time I got a new system on launch day was when the Nintendo 64 came out. For me, with any system, it's always about the games. If there's a game I really want for it, I get it. Thus, if the Nintendo Wii didn't launch with The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess, I probably wouldn't have cared.

I'd been watching the development of the latest Zelda game for some time, and had long ago reserved a copy for the Gamecube. But when I heard that it was going to be a Wii launch title, with the new controls and all that, I cancelled my Gamecube version of the game and waited for the release of the Wii.

I was prepared to go the distance - camping out on launch day and all that. Enter my wonderful, naive fiancee'. She forbade me from getting it on launch day, saying that such an expenditure was best left for Christmas. In other words, she would get me a Wii as a Christmas gift, along with Zelda. I acquiesced. I was a little concerned about her ability to get one at the time, but I had a contact at an EB - a friend who could help her get one. So I was not overly worried.

Launch day came and went, and the hardcore people got their Wiis. Good for them, they deserved it for their dedication. A few weeks later, in early December, my fiancee's resolve began to falter. It was too hard. She was unwilling to camp out or do anything other than going to a store and grabbing one off a shelf. So I took back the initiative.

My budget, already strained by Christmas shopping (including getting my fiancee' a $250 Ipod), was barely able to squeeze in the money for a Wii. So, I contacted my friend at EB and she told me about the next shipment. I gave her the cash and she told her co-workers to hold one for her. They didn't. I got my cash back just in time to pay for what happened next - my fiancee's piece of shit car broke down and required about $270 to fix. I took care of that.

At that point I came to three conclusions. One, that I was totally alone in my quest to get the ONLY thing I had wanted for Christmas, a Wii. I could count on NO ONE but myself to make it happen. Two, I wasn't going to get one before Christmas. Three, until her car situation was taken care of, I had no business buying a Wii.

Christmas came and went, and I got a copy of Zelda for the Wii, and extra Wii-mote controller, and a card for 2000 Wii Points. All useless without a Wii. What fun.

February forced our hand as her car finally broke down to the point where it could not be repaired for a reasonable amount of money. The plan was to wait until her tax refund arrived and use it as a down payment, but like I said our hand was forced. Nonetheless, she managed to get financing on a brand new car. So with that obstacle out of the way, I was free to get my Wii.

Except I was broke. I pay most of the bills and buy most of the groceries, so I barely make it from paycheck to paycheck. My fiancee's tax refund arrived, but she spent it mostly on shoes and jewelry she apparently needed. So, it's taken me another month to get my budget in order to where I could squeak out the money for a Wii. Don't get me wrong, I'm madly in love with my fiancee' and these issues are insignificant compared to the joy of being with her in my life. However, she could not have obstructed my purchase of a Wii more if she were my worst enemy.

This brings my story of my quest to get a Wii up to date. Today I began the hunt.