Wednesday, November 28, 2007

As Seen On TV

The television commercials for the Nintendo Wii usually feature two Japanese guys bringing the Wii to people and saying "Wii would like to play", then showing various people enjoying the system. The one that features Wii Sports shows at one point some senior citizens, in their old bowling shirts, playing the bowling game of course.

When I bought a Wii back in March, I mentioned it to my future mother-in-law Arbadella, as she was for many of her years an avid bowler, and a good one, having a shelf full of trophies in her apartment to prove it. It's a hobby she unfortunately had to give up due to arthritis. She is generally disdainful of modern gadgetry, having only recently gotten a cell phone and needing a lot of help just to figure it out.

That's okay, of course, as even I have trouble figuring out all these modern doohickeys. When we told her about Wii Sports bowling, she seemed intrigued, but not to the point that she'd ever try it. We gave up after a few times mentioning it to her.

Recently, though, she was told about it again, but this time from a friend of hers at church who plays it with her family. Where our attempts to introduce her to the game failed, peer pressure from someone her own age suddenly got her interested.

So, on Thanksgiving she came over and tried it before we had to go to the family dinner, and she loved it:

So, yes, with the Nintendo Wii, you can believe the hype. It's as close as she can get to real bowling, and without the arthritis pain she would get with the real thing. She wants to come over again soon and play some more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Wii Zapper and Link's Crossbow Training

It's another great week for owners of the Nintendo Wii system, as the Wii Zapper has been released with the game Link's Crossbow Training. For $25 at my local Gamestop, I got one after work yesterday, and immediately took it home to give it a try.

The Wii remote acts as the barrrel and trigger of the gun, and just behind it sits the nunchuck controller, with the wire between the two conveniently tucked away within the zapper itself. Although it's made of plastic, it's heavier and sturdier than one might think, giving the whole package the kind of weight one associates with a gun.

Link's Crossbow Training is a nice little set of shooting games that comes with the zapper, and it offers a lot of variety. Each level consists of three challenges and at the end of the three a score is tallied. Bronze medals are awarded at 20000 points, with silver and gold following at 40000 and 60000 respectively. The game starts with three levels unlocked with the others opening up when bronze medals are achieved in the first three.

Some shooting is stationary, with targets appearing. Others have Link moving left and right as he's encircled by enemies. The best challenges have Link moving through an area shooting at enemies with a third-person view. I've only played through the first four levels so far, and it's a lot of fun, with a few power-ups like a rapid-fire crossbow available at times.

The game uses locations and enemies from the Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess, which reminds me that I need to go back and finish that game some time. It's a great pack-in game for the Wii Zapper and a great addition to my Wii collection.

I really wanted the Wii Zapper for Medal of Honor Heroes 2, though, as that game is also compatable with it, and man does the Zapper kick ass with this game. In the review I had read before buying it, the reviewers stated that hardcore gamers would probably prefer playing Medal of Honor Heroes 2 without the zapper, but in the online mode I found it made a big difference for the better in terms of my personal performance.

I played online deathmatch with the Wii Zapper and the Thompson machine gun and was doing much better than I had with just the Wii remote and nunchuck. The weight of the Wii Zapper combined with the rumble feature of the Wii remote to really make it feel like a machine gun. It was just a blast.

I also tried the Wii Zapper with Medal of Honor Heroes 2's arcade mode, which plays like a classic arcade light gun rail shooter, a genre of gaming I had never found all that much fun before, and again I was having a blast. Once I got the rhythm down for shooting and reloading, that is.

I'm loving the Wii Zapper and recommend it just for Link's Crossbow Training alone. With Medal of Honor Heroes 2, though, as an indication, I can clearly see this controller holder getting a lot more use as more games come out for it in the future. Well done, Nintendo.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nintendo Wii - The Long Dry Spell Is Over

I spent a long summer with growing regret of my decision to get a Nintendo Wii. After I was pretty much done with The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess, and after I had beaten Super Paper Mario, all that was left was Wii Sports and Wii Play, usually enjoyed when Monique (my fiancee') and I both had the time to play. I tried several other Wii games over the summer - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Rayman Raving Rabbids to name a few, but none were really any good.

When Metroid Prime 3 hit the Wii back in August, I passed on it too. I was still smarting from the frustration of the Gamecube Metroid Prime to trust that franchise again.

This week, however, everything has changed.

Super Mario Galaxy
Nintendo has launched their big gun, their system-seller, and man they got everything right. Mario is back in a whole new star-spanning adventure that has perfect controls, a huge number of levels, mind-bending gravity and vertigo effects and gameplay, and of course lots of those little touches that indicate a level of craftsmanship unparalelled in the game design world.

I've barely scratched the surface of this title, and like a fine bottle of wine, I'm gonna savor every moment of this instant classic.

Medal of Honor Heroes 2
At last, That's all I can say about the arrival of this game.

Not that I've been counting down the months until it's release. On the contrary, I just found about Medal of Honor Heroes 2 last weekend when I was looking for upcoming releases for the Wii on It's the first first person shooter for the Wii to get it right...for me at least. Fans of Metroid will of course disagree.

What it got right are perfect controls, using the Wii remote to aim and shoot and the nunchuck to move. Here's a few other cool examples of the controls on this thing:

Using the bazooka : You flip the Wii remote over your shoulder, pointing behind you, and aim with the nunchuck.

Throwing a grenade : Press B to set the target, and motion with the Wii remote like you were really throwing it.

The Radio : When you encounter a radio in the game, it zooms in to the dial and you turn the Wii remote clockwise and counterclockwise to try to tune into the OSS secret frequency. Sometimes you get real WWII era music or a broadcast. Very cool.

What it really got right is 32 PLAYER ONLINE ! WOOOOHOOOO! Finally, FINALLY, a Wi-Fi enabled Wii First Person Shooter that I can play online. I just got done with a few matches, and while I certainly didn't "pwn", I held my own.

Especially with the sniper rifle.

The game also has a rail-shooter arcade mode, and tons of control customization that will take me weeks to tailor to my own preferences.

Bust A Move Bash
Monique picked up this game used. It actually came out in April or May I think. It's the old Bust A Move game, which she and I used to enjoy on the Playstation until one of our controllers bit the dust, with a whole new bunch of bells and whistles.

We had some fun with this last night, but sadly the controls are not quite that precise. In fact, they can be jumpy at times. Not enough to make the game unplayable, but enough to cause occasional irritation. The game itself has some weird new things going on in terms of powerups - so much so that it often seems unnecessary to shoot one's bubbles at the same color (the normal way to score points and win).

I think I need to spend some more time with this title to understand it better, though, so take my initial impressions of the game as just that - initial impressions.

I'm not going to get much time to do that, though, since Super Mario Galaxy and Medal of Honor Heroes 2 both kick some major ass on the Wii. It's been a long time coming for Wii owners, but this holiday season is off to a great start. These two games might even have enough lasting playability that they could keep me entertained through another such dry spell of titles.

Let's not test that, though. Keep them coming, I say.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ultima Online - Magincia Invasion Event

I've been having a blast the last week and a half in Ultima Online, as the city of Magincia is under attack by hordes of demons. There's fire everywhere.

There are some cool loot items to get, but the most fun is in just seeing the whole community come to one place to fight together. People are being very cool, helping each other out and sharing the spawns. Not that there is a shortage of demons pouring out of the moongate, of course.

I spend as much ressurrecting other players as I do fighting the demons, and when I need brought back to life I can quickly find a player willing to do the same for me. I've gotten a few of the new items, not as many as those more determined to get them, but most of all I've just had fun with it all.

And it's a progressive event, meaning that it moves along in stages, so every few days it's a little different. All in all, this event has reminded me of why I came back to UO - the community - and it has reaffirmed my faith in the game's designers and programmers to deliver great things to the game. Hats off to the dev team.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Beaten : The Legend of Zelda - Phantom Hourglass

Sunday I finally beat The Legend of Zelda : Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS. The final boss battle was tough, in a sense, because it caused my hand to cramp during the fight. After a few tries, I finally figured out to pause the game and give my hand a rest after each time I landed a hit on him.

There are still a few things I never did in the game, mostly involving the mini-game challenges that come up throughout Link's journey, and the collection of things like ship parts. Usually, after I beat a game I never go back and try to beat it completely like that. There's just too many other games around to linger too long on minor details.

Still, this game kept me playing for most of October and was a real treat, especially with the touch controls. If you have a DS and don't have this game, I highly recommend it for great portable adventuring fun.