Posts filed under Article

Mini-Documentary on Video games and culture, and how parents can shape their future

Andy Robertson of Family Gamer TV interviews Iain Simons, director of the National Video Game Arcade in Nottingham, England.

The National Video Game Arcade (NVA) is one year old. We talk to director Iain Simons about it's challenges and successes along with the upcoming Continue Conference and Game City Prize 2016. Here are some quotes from the interview: "It always struck me as very strange how poor the game establishment was at participating in culture.
Posted on May 6, 2016 and filed under Article.

Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival demo analysis

I know that we all have questions about what exactly this game will be. Nintendo Treehouse demoed the game, and from it we can tell a few things about the game:

  • there will be turnip trading
  • there are other things to do in the game besides the board game
  • each turn of the game advances the calendar a day
  • events like the bug off occur on specific days of the month
  • houses designed for characters in Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer will be imported into the AC amiibo Festival if you use their amiibo card
  • animal visitors to the town will give opportunities to interact with them if you land on specific spaces, eg. Katie, Redd and others.
  • a board game design allows for families to play and interact with Animal Crossing together, rather than the single player experience of traditional Animal Crossing games
  • gyroids on the board will stamp your paper as you pass
  • "It's worth mentioning again that this is just one part of Animal Crossing amiibo festival, the board game is part of what you can play, it's the only thing we're able to talk about and show right now. There is more to Animal Crossing amiibo festival that we'll hopefully be able to talk about at a later date... when we're allowed."

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Posted on June 18, 2015 and filed under Article.

Adventures in importing a Japanese 3DS

Recently I decided to import a Japanese 3DS. After watching the Monster Hunter X reveal, I decided that I would not only import the handheld, but try to learn Japanese as well, so that by the time Monster Hunter X comes out this winter, I might be able to read a little. My eventual goal is to become fluent in Japanese, enough to play video games and watch anime.

I ordered the New 3DS in white, the non-LL model, with interchangeable cover plates. I also ordered Cover Plates No. 38 (Monster Hunter Poogie) to go with the system (of course).

There is no setting to change the language on a Japanese 3DS, and you can only play games from Japan, so it means that you either import physical cartridges, or purchase games digitally.

All future posts about this will be tagged #Japan3DSAdventure so stay tuned! I'll post whatever tips I learn about along the way.

The first tip is this nice list of games to import over at chic-pixel.com by @apricotsushi: "10 Japanese 3DS Games Worth Importing" which she has listed and assessed in terms of difficulty of Japanese. I'm definitely interested in the first game on the list, Taiko no Tatsujin: Don to Katsu no Jikuu Daibouken. Especially since it has the song from Attack on Titan in it!

Posted on June 4, 2015 and filed under Article.

The Game My Father Played - Ryan Thompson

Today's guest post is from Ryan Thompson, a gamer parent in the D.C. area, and a co-host on the Magic Hour Show.

Christmas of 1991, I got a shiny new Nintendo Entertainment System. The Super Nintendo released the August prior, but I was just six years old and had never played a video game before. To me, this was a brand new experience, and the NES was the best there was. I remember walking into whatever game retailers were in existence then with my grandparents. Upright cardboard boxes were filled with NES cartridges, cheap because they were now old. But in my mind, these games had no release date or shelf-life. They existed for my enjoyment; they were there for me to play.

Sometime that summer, I brought home Super Mario Bros. 3. Its bright yellow artwork and the happy Mario with the raccoon tail invited me to a fun world where Mario was going to FLY LIKE A RACCOON! The shiny new cartridge was put in, no blowing necessary, and I excitedly pressed the power button. The curtains opened and the colorful world of Super Mario 3 was revealed to me.

My father came home from his night shift at a grocery store as I was beginning my adventure to save the princess.  He watched as I played through the first level, figuring out how to use the leaf power-up, running back and forth to build up flying power and probably falling to my death once or twice. To my surprise, he asked to play. I reset the system, and chose 2-player. I let my dad be Mario, because, well he was my dad! I’d be Luigi.

Quite the library of NES games had been built by the time I got Super Mario Bros. 3. My dad had never shown interest in playing any of them before. He would often pick up one from the rental store he thought I’d be interested in, and sometimes would watch as I struggled to beat a Mega Man level, or raced around the tracks in Al Unser, Jr.’s Turbo Racing, but this was the first time he wanted to play one with me. And he wanted to play a lot.

Summer vacation allowed for a lot of game time. As soon as my dad would get home from his shift, The Price is Right would be turned off and the Nintendo turned on. We’d spend hours at a time playing Super Mario Bros. 3. I still have the Nintendo Power Games Atlas he bought for us to use to find all the secrets, to match all the cards in the memory mini-game, and to line up the power-up pieces in the Toad House bonus games. Our favorite world was the Giant World. I don’t think that bright yellow cartridge left the system all summer. And then, it stopped.

As quickly as our father/son gaming began, it ended. He decided he was too addicted to the game and couldn’t play anymore. He decided this for all games. Time has blurred some of my memories, but I don’t think I was ever able to convince Dad to play anything with me again.

My hobbies were always different than the rest of my family. I wasn’t interested in learning how to maintain a muscle-car, or play sports. I wanted to play video games and rock and roll. For a brief few months, my dad and I connected with the mustachioed plumbers. We were united in the goal of breaking blocks, shooting fireballs, and defeating a quirky family of spiked dinosaurs. Now, just as my memory of those months has faded, so has my relationship with my dad

I’m Dad now. A father to two children who are small, but growing more rapidly than I’d prefer. I include them in my hobbies. I read the text of RPGs to my youngest, holding him in one arm while my other clicks a mouse. The oldest, asks for “Mar Kart Aaaaaaaate!,” “Shove-Knight,” and “Pikit” (Pikmin), and I’m happy to oblige, providing an unpowered controller for her use. The day will soon come when the pretend controller no longer works, and I look forward to it.

I can’t help but wonder if we had continued gaming together; maybe my relationship with my father would be different today. Mario would have evolved to co-op Diablo sessions, Warcraft II and III, various MMOs, and would excitedly loop back into the New Mario series on the WiiU. A line of communication might have remained open that has been, for reasons, indefinitely closed. I hope that, whichever hobbies my children end up pursuing, that I can find some way to be a meaningful part of them, even if it means learning some sports-ball.

Ryan Thompson is a musician and gamer by night, a husband and dad all the time, and a co-host of The Magic Hour Show.

Posted on March 24, 2015 and filed under Article.

Learning From The Masters: Level Design In The Legend Of Zelda - Mike Stout on gamasutra

When going back to replay classic games I played as a kid to mine them for knowledge, I always fear that any games from the NES era or earlier are too old to learn much from.

I tend to assume that many elements of modern design will be missing: no training, bad difficulty ramping, haphazard level design, and so forth. Before writing this article, I was under the impression that many “good design principles” I’ve come to know and love were invented during the SNES era and iterated on from there.

The NES was the Wild West of game development, I thought, lawless and free.

So when I went back on Link’s 25th anniversary to play the first Zelda game and maybe write an article about it, I was a bit gun-shy.

As it turns out, I was totally wrong!
— Mike Stout
Posted on March 9, 2015 and filed under Article.

I stole my daughter's Pink 3DS XL and put a Monster Hunter 4 cover on it

I've been holding on to this cover for a long time (I ordered an accessories pack from Japan when MH4 was out in Sept. 2013)

I've been holding on to this cover for a long time (I ordered an accessories pack from Japan when MH4 was out in Sept. 2013)

I've been playing Monster Hunter 4U pretty steadily since it came out last month, but I've been finding the screen on my original 3DS to be a little on the small side, especially for extended periods of play. Luckily my daughter has a 3DS XL that I can "borrow," so I bought a Circle Pad Pro XL, and put my nifty Monster Hunter 4 plastic cover on it, and voila! A larger version of what I've been using. I love that it's pink. I think a pink Gore Magala is awesome.

Posted on March 2, 2015 and filed under Article.

Play Impressions: The Legend of Zelda (3DS Virtual Console)

Legend_of_zelda_cover_(with_cartridge)_gold.png

I just finished my play through of "The Legend of Zelda" on the 3DS Virtual Console this month. Before I get to that however, I want to talk about 1987.

I was 14, and going into Grade 11. Yeah, I skipped a couple grades. But keep in mind that back then we had Grade 13 in Ontario, so it's not as braniac as it seems. When The Legend of Zelda released for the NES in August of 1987, I'm not sure I noticed. I was probably too busy in the arcade playing Double Dragon, or listening to U2's Joshua Tree. You might have found me pulling an all-nighter at a friend's house playing Arkanoid on his 386* with an actual paddle controller. Playing D&D, or attempting to learn how to play Squad Leader. To put it bluntly, I was too cool for a Nintendo.

I'll never know how my life would have been changed had I played The Legend of Zelda back then. But I missed it, and ever since, Zelda has been one of those gaming touchstones that I never got around to playing.

When we got our Wii and Skyward Sword came out, I dutifully purchased and played through about a third of it. Anxious to see what all the fuss was about. It was fun, sure, and as engaging in its puzzling as it was frustrating in its motion controlled combat.

But a part of me didn't really 'get' Zelda. What is it about this story that is so compelling to so many people?

I am unable to project my 14 year old self into my current psyche. I can't do it. I had to look up what major world events happened in 1987. I remember isolated slices of experience, a life lived with my friends, my group of music/video game/D&D geeks.

So when I finally played The Legend of Zelda on my 3DS this past week, it was experienced through the eyes of a 41 year old husband and father of two. Here are my thoughts.

First, without any sort of guide or map, the game is seemingly aimless. Screen after screen of woods, beaches, rocky deserts. Creatures that come at you, and attack you. Oh, you can throw your sword at them, that's cool, until you can't. What? How come I can't throw my sword any more? Oh look, a heart! Hey, I can throw my sword again!

I became quickly frustrated. Not knowing where to go, or what to do. "Come on now, you played Dark Souls, you liked it, you should be able to figure this out," I said to myself. So I set about the task of playing through the entirety of the game.

Right off the bat I want to say that I consulted a walkthrough. Having heard that there are many hidden rooms and areas in the game, I didn't feel like walking around randomly bombing every section of wall or setting fire to every bush. So I used a guide.

I progressed through the game, learning that my health, my weapons, and my defences could be upgraded by acquiring new items. Using a guide really helped me go through the game in a logical manner, taking away what some might say is the game's unique open world design. Rather than stumbling across a dungeon that's much too hard and getting my ass kicked, I took the dungeons in a progressive order, starting with the easiest.

Second, the game reminded me of Dark Souls. When you die, you start back at the starting screen, with your items intact but your health reduced. I got so used to running through certain areas that I knew how the enemies were going to come at me before I got there. When I cleared an area of enemies, running back through them again was like running through an empty Undead Burg.

Also, when you die (which I did, quite often, at the beginning before getting more hearts) you start back at the first area again, but with reduced health. I was glad to find out that I didn't lose any of my weapons or equipment that I'd picked up along the way. And I did die, often as not because I was facing the wrong way when trying to attack, or because I'd been surrounded by a room full of enemies.

One interesting mechanic is that if you are at full health, you can throw your sword as a projectile, but if you take any damage at all, you lose that ability and the sword can only stab adjacent spots. Also interesting is that each arrow fired costs one rupee. I didn't realize this until suddenly I couldn't fire my arrows anymore, and I discovered that all my money had disappeared somehow. So I learned to conserve arrows, and I tried my best not to get hit, and stay at full health.

Third, this map is freaking huge. In my play through, which took under 7 hours, I'm not sure that I actually went to every area in the map. The graphics do a reasonable job of depicting different areas, with clever use of colour and patterns. I was genuinely shocked when I saw boulders crashing down from the mountainside. Dungeons had rooms that were pitch black, requiring you to light them up with your candle.

Secret areas abound, and without my walkthrough, or unlimited patience, I would never have found them all. Most are simply found through trial and error, but there are a few secrets which could be deduced by looking at the level design for things that just seemed subtly out of place. A bush that is on its own, or a pool of water that's not like the others. I felt that those were cleverly done, but the random caves in walls? Hard to find unless you know where to look.

Finally, playing the game on 3DS Virtual Console meant that I had the ability to save anywhere, which really helped against the tougher boss battles. Virtual Console only allows one save, but one is better than none. I got into the RPG habit of saving before going through the next door, or into the next dungeon, or after a particularly difficult room. Without that I think the game would have been much more frustrating for me. Definitely a plus to play it with save states.

I admit that my way of playing through the game is kind of cheat-y, and maybe ruins some of the wonder of exploring and solving a game like Zelda on your own. But I knew that if I didn't finish it before Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate came I wouldn't get back to it for a long time. So I hurried things up a little, with a little assistance.

It's certainly not my proudest gaming achievement, but at least now I can say the following things, and they will be true: I played the first Zelda game, and I finished a Zelda game.

*A 386 refers to the Intel 80386 CPU used in PC's of the time.

For more interesting Zelda analysis, here is a fascinating look at the translation and localization of the Legend of Zelda Manuals.

Posted on February 25, 2015 and filed under Article.

Nintendo is aiming the Wii U GamePad directly at parents and children

If you've been wondering what exactly the point of the GamePad is, this little quote from the Financial Results Briefing gives some insight on how Nintendo views its Wii U GamePad:

Gameplay that utilizes the GamePad possesses a large amount of potential, and it can further expand the way parents and children have fun together.
— Satoru Iwata, Nintendo President

Mr. Iwata also commented that of the games that are scheduled for release in 2015, many "fully utilize" the Wii U GamePad.

This idea of parents and children playing together on the Game Pad is a new tack for Nintendo. Previously the Game Pad was not positioned as a family device, but by turns as a TV remote, a remote play device (at which it works extremely well, by the way), as a second screen for game UI, or as a motion controlled scanning device.

All of these use are completely valid, and I'm not taking away from the functionality of the Game Pad, I think it's great. It's just that using it in a way that involves "parents and children having fun together" needs to be more fully explored, and I don't think Nintendo has really done that yet.

Posted on February 17, 2015 and filed under Article.

Anyone who is fine with North America not getting the New 3DS needs to see this

Here is what Nintendo Japan tweeted out a few days ago:

These are not special edition New 3DS models, but just new Zelda themed faceplates for the New 3DS. The regular size model, the one that hasn't been announced for North America.

Look at them. Aren't they nice looking? Much nicer than the gold Majora's Mask New 3DS XL that is coming out, and that no one can get unless you pre-ordered it already.

Nintendo is in danger of creating an elitist collectors club for their special editions of hardware, where only a select few or those with deep pockets can afford to own. Why not bring out the smaller model with its interchangeable faceplates, so we can all enjoy looking at super cool hardware?

I think I'll start with posting one faceplate per day to help you see just what we're missing out on.

Posted on February 11, 2015 and filed under Article.

Hate Rosalina & Luma? Don't forget about Rosetta & Chiko!

The Japanese Rosalina & Luma amiibo has a different English name, "Rosetta & Chiko"

The Japanese Rosalina & Luma amiibo has a different English name, "Rosetta & Chiko"

Do you hate Rosalina? So much that you're willing to spend a ton of money to buy as many as you can to keep her off the market? Well, to prevent too many people from having her, you might want to import her Japanese counterpart as well, "Rosetta & Chiko".

You can try your luck importing it, or even travel to Japan to buy them in person. Either way, you can rest in the knowledge that you're keeping this horrid character out of the hands of those that really like her.

Posted on January 19, 2015 and filed under Article.

Why is Nintendo only bringing the NEW 3DS XL model to the North American market?

UPDATE: article corrected to reflect that the New 3DS XL does not have coloured buttons like the Famicom, only coloured lettering on grey buttons

During today's Nintendo Direct, Reggie Fils-Aime came on camera to introduce the New 3DS XL hardware. And only the New 3DS XL.

Not the smaller size New 3DS, the one with interchangeable faceplates. Not the one with the coloured Famicom buttons.

Many were disappointed with this news, myself included. My reasons for wanting the smaller New 3DS are many, besides the faceplates, I just prefer the smaller size. It fits into my life better. I also am not a big fan of how jaggy everything looks on the larger 3DS XL screen, a byproduct of making the screen larger without increasing the pixel resolution.

What makes this decision more vexing is that Europe is getting both sizes. So that leaves North America as the odd market out, so to speak.

Nintendo of America's statement on the matter is typically guarded:

"Different territories make their own business decisions regarding individual products and timing. We think New Nintendo 3DS XL makes the most sense for our market. Nintendo makes different systems at different price points for a whole range of consumers, and New Nintendo 3DS XL simply expands those choices even further."

Uh, ok. That's not an explanation, it just says that you made the decision, but not why you made it. "Just because" isn't really an answer. I'm sure they have actual reasons, but until they divulge those secrets to us, we'll never really know.

Speculation time:

  • Nintendo has difficulty with shelf space at retail, and since the introduction of amiibo now they require even more. To introduce a whole line of faceplates to the mix simply exacerbates the problem.
  • Nintendo believes that North Americans only like big things, so bigger is better.
  • Nintendo feeling the sting from amiibo shortages and collectors buying up 'rare' characters wanted to avoid another situation where certain faceplates would become rare and unavailable.
  • Nintendo wants to make more money, so by only offering a higher priced XL model and no mid-priced regular size, they stand to bring in more revenue (although not necessarily more profit, unless we're assuming that the profit margin is higher on the XL)

These are just theories, I don't really know why there will only be the New 3DS XL in North America. All I know is that since I can't get a regular size one with the faceplate I was set on (the Monster Hunter Blue Stripes of the Poggie, if you must know) I will wait it out. Seeing as my current 3DS is a Fire Emblem Edition, perhaps I'll bide my time and see if there will be a Fire Emblem New 3DS XL.

A man can dream, can't he?

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let me know! And please hit the Like button if you like this post. Thanks!

via polygon

Posted on January 14, 2015 and filed under Article.

Not a new idea, but... Nintendo should buy Capcom

How owning Capcom would help Nintendo for their next console:

"If Nintendo offers third-party developers a dev kit and lets them know that they'll be launching games like Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, Devil May Cry, and Street Fighter in the console's first year, those developers will feel much more confident about releasing their games on the system, because there will actually be a market for them. Very few companies would be willing to launch an M-rated game on a console that only has games like Mario and Donkey Kong on it, but having Capcom's lineup in its arsenal makes it a whole different story."

If Nintendo could sew up all of Capcom's IP, get them in on the ground stage of what the next gen hardware is going to be, and then have those games AT LAUNCH, it would definitely be pretty amazing.

Nintendo Should Buy Capcom and Unleash Them on the Next Gen - via Gamnesia

Posted on November 29, 2014 and filed under Article.

I wish I could turn this into a watch blog

So I've been really digging my new Seiko 5 Automatic watch, and really, if you're looking at a perfect entry level watch with a self winding mechanism (no batteries, ever!) then a Seiko 5 is a great place to start. I got mine for under $100 and it's my first sort of 'serious' watch that isn't a Timex.

I created a search on Amazon for only automatic winding watches, and from 'decent' brands. If you want to check out what I peruse when I'm not working or playing games or taking care of kids, this is the page. :)

Automatic watches from 'good' brands on Amazon

Posted on November 22, 2014 and filed under Article.

13 ways Dark Souls is not like Monster Hunter

So I recently got back into Dark Souls, after having merely dipped my toes in the water previously, gotten repeatedly murdered by undead, and promptly stopped.

If you've gone through the experience of Dark Souls, you'll often hear it compared to Monster Hunter in terms of its difficult learning curve, focus on combat, and general frustration level. Or, if you play Monster Hunter only, someone might have said to you, "You should try Dark Souls, you'll probably like it." 

I thought I'd write up a little guide to Monster Hunter players thinking about Dark Souls, and how the games compare. So without further ado:

Dark Souls is just like Monster Hunter except:

 

  1. minions are a mix of humaniods and monsters, not monsters exclusively
  2. humanoid minions can use potions to heal themselves
  3. bosses (and lesser mini bosses) do not respawn, you can only hunt them once
  4. maps are not split into zones but are continuous
  5. there is magic
  6. bosses do not limp away to rest
  7. there are no cat companions, sidekicks or otherwise
  8. there is multiplayer but it can be PvP
  9. you don't get to cook meat
  10. there are character stats
  11. there's actual lock on
  12. even small enemies do significant damage
  13. there are gestures but no text chat

 

 In all seriousness, the two games are very different. About the only thing they have in common is an intricate weapon moveset that varies from weapon type, enemy movements that can be predicted through careful observation, and the ability for the game to punish you if you play recklessly.

If those things excite you, well, you should probably give Dark Souls a try, at least once. And stick with it, just like Monster Hunter. It might grow on you.

 

Posted on August 4, 2014 and filed under Article.

Feature Article - 4 Best Things about Child Of Light for Families

The following is a feature article from Andy Robertson of FamilyGamerTV about the upcoming Child of Light game from Ubisoft. Child of Light is a platforming RPG which has you play the role of a child on a quest to return home. Developed using the UbiArt Framework, the same engine that powered Rayman Origins and Rayman Origins, the game has some promise to look nice, at least. But how does it play? And is it a good family game?

Read on and find out!

Four Best Things About Child Of Light For Families

Having had some time to look at the game, here are my four favourite things about Child of Light:
 
1. Lemuria: The world of Lemuria, in which you play is both enchanting and dark. Although not as restrained a pallet as Limbo this certainly draws from its art style, along with games like Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy VIII. Fireflies dance in the foreground as leaves blow through the trees behind. It's an eerie empty space, but one that was obviously inhabited not long ago with ruins, fences, ethereal flying fish and broken statues guarding every turn. It's all rendered with the UbiArt Framework used to make Rayman Origins & Legends.
 
2. Aurora: You play Aurora, a girl from 1895 Austria who falls ill but instead of dying she falls asleep and wakes up in the mythical world of Lemuria which has had its sun, moon and stars stolen by the Black Queen. She seems to be about ten years old and brings with her a fragility and bravery. She is upset at the loss of her father, but resolves to rescue him and restore the celestial bodies. But unlike her male counterparts she is a protagonist without the strength to do this alone, struggling to even lift her sword. As the developers put it "An active heroine, no prince charming at the end, focused on the idea that we need to grow up, leave home and take responsibility to make a change in the world."
 
3. Game-Play: The game moves from side scrolling platforming into battle encounters. Here we find a system much like the Active Time Battle systems of games like Final Fantasy and Grandia, but in stylized and beautiful form. Players must draw on their party and choose between attack or defense in a limited time. Act quickly and you can interrupt enemy attacks to gain the upper hand. There is complexity and depth here but this is handled sensibly so as to not be off putting to new comers to the genre while drawing on the team's experience with upgrade skill trees from games like Far Cry 3.
 
Game-play is extended considerably when a second player takes control of Igniculus. This works because Aurora and Igniculus offer substantially different play patterns. Aurora offers standard JRPG fare (physical attacks, magic and targeting one or more enemies) while Igniculus has a more tactical bent (blinding enemies or interrupting them in the middle of an attack) as well as collecting health and magic from the battle and heal other party members. Other interesting game-play touches include being able to leave messages behind for other players, much like Dark Souls allowed players to do. This not only provides a novel way to communicate with other people but also lends a sense of community to Lemuria.
 
4. Story Telling: The experience is then tied together with fairy tale prose in the form of rhyming couplets ("Will someone please explain, how water falls with no rain"). It's a risky approach to story telling as there is a danger here of it feeling twee and too cute. However the balance seems good in the sections I've played. The story happily continues through the game with speech bubbles popping up during play, as well as the hand draw cut scenes. The result is an Elizabethan theatrical feel to the writing that plays to the fairytale castle visuals. As Jeffrey Yohalem, script writer, puts it "Because the text in the game is largely written, not spoken, my goal is to pack as much meaning into as few words as possible. Much of the story is told through gameplay, the story's evolution is tightly linked with Aurora's evolution."
 

Interview with Creative Director, Patrick Plourde:

 

Posted on April 3, 2014 and filed under Article.

Diary of a Dark Souls Dad: Day 1, part 2

CONTAINS SPOILERS

I watch as the opening cinematic plays out in all its splendour on my plasma and the 5.1 sound system. I dim the lights a little, enjoying the moment. I only get to see it for the first time once, after all. I’m shocked as the game begins, dumping me onto a dais and letting me walk around.

There’s a grassy field, and with the wind blowing and my feet rustling in the brush I swear I can hear other sounds, other things making noise in there with me. I need to keep moving.

There’s a glow from a hut up ahead, so I head there. Ah, there it is. The character creation screen comes up, and I make my choices. The UI looks different from Dark Souls, and it’s initially jarring. There’s a lot more customization possible this time around, and I take my time making my character look right. Well, close enough anyway.

I choose the Warrior class, because I’d like to focus on melee, and you need lots of  Strength to even wield the weapons I’m thinking of. I can always build another character later. A Sorcerer, probably.

I choose the Ring of extra HP as my starting gift. The other ones look either useless, or consumable. I’d rather not take a gift that I’ll just use up right away.

When you exit the character creation hut, there’s the first bonfire. If you continue out of there, you get to an area with multiple branching paths, and fog doors on every side. In my mind, fog doors equals bad scary bosses on the other side, and even though that’s not always the case, I didn’t feel like checking it out just yet. So I ran through, and if you do that, you get to Majula.

I think I found a bug. If you go straight to Majula without opening any of the fog doors in the previous area, talk to everybody and collect all the loot, if you then go back to the previous area and go through the fog doors and clear the area, when you go back to Majula the loot will be there again, and you can collect it again. At least that’s what happened to me. I did not look that gift horse in the mouth, let me tell you. I took it all!

Majula is a sunny place. It’s bright, it’s open, it overlooks the sea. There’s a monument there, which at its base has a plaque listing the number of worldwide deaths in Dark Souls 2 so far. When I checked it around noon Eastern on launch day, it was already at 300k something deaths. I contributed a few to that number.

Majula also is home to three of the most vicious, hateful, violent little groundhogs that I’ve ever seen. Since I had run straight there without doing any of what is ostensibly the tutorial area of the game, I had only my starting gear with me. My weapon was a broken straight sword, and those groundhogs have a ton of health! I could only do 10 damage with each attack, and I really though the three of them were going to surround me and paw and kick me to death. Seriously. Judging from all the bloodstains around there I think those groundhogs did some serious damage on Day 1.

I managed to get 5 hours of play time, and I’ve reached the first boss and fought him twice without success. Along the way I picked up a few weapons, and bought an Estoc for some stabby stab action.

I spent a fair bit of time going through the ‘tutorial’ area, and after clearing all the different sections, it came down to the final area with creatures in it, down by the beach. There are two rather nasty cyclops / hippo / rhino looking dudes down there, who won’t think twice about picking you up and chewing on you. They’re very strong and I wasn’t successful in killing them. There’s a coffin / boat on the shore where they’re standing, and I managed to get inside of it and lie down and close the lid over top of me. The screen changed to a loading screen, the ones where they tell you tips about different items in the game, and then it went back to the same location, but with me exiting the coffin boat. At which point the two dudes promptly killed me. I’ll give you a little hint: if you want those guys to leave the beach, try lighting some fires. I won’t say what the coffin boat does, you’ll have to figure that out on your own. Let’s just say it’s a subtle change.

A note about the Black Armour Edition equipment: it’s cool looking, but be careful, some of it is fragile. I learned this the hard way after placing my summon sign down, getting pulled into someone’s world, and equipping the Amber sword, I believe, and then having it break while fighting the boss on the roof. Unable to switch swords while in combat with the boss, I was useless and died.

Day 1 has been, all in all, wonderful. It’s everything I have been looking forward to, and the world seems huge. I won’t be able to play for a few days, as other obligations are competing for my gaming time (you know, like family, March Break, and work). I’ll put more thoughts down as I play. Until then, Dad out.

Posted on March 12, 2014 and filed under Article.

Diary of a Dark Souls Dad: Day 1, part 1

10:00AM. It’s March Break, so that means the kids are off. Today they’re heading over to grandma’s house, which is about a 15 minute walk. I feel like walking, but my youngest isn’t really in the mood. I really want to walk, not only because it’s warm out (6C in what’s been a very cold March), but because on the way between our place and grandma’s is the video game store where I placed my pre-order for Dark Souls II, and I’d really like to pass by and pick it up on my way home.

She is convinced to go as long as she can take the scooter. The plan is a go.

10:30AM. I step into the video game store. I know that it is this time because I looked at my phone when I crossed the threshold.

“Oh, you guys are open,” I say, knowing full well that 10:30AM is the stated opening time, but that sometimes they arrive late. Not today. “Did Dark Souls II come in yet?”

The man behind the counter nods. His name is Sam. He pulls out a copy of the game, and puts it on the counter. There’s a problem. “Is that the regular version?” I ask, “because I saw on your Facebook page that all pre-orders had been upped to the Black Armour editions. Can you check?”

Sam doesn’t know. He picks up the phone and makes a call. “Yeah, hi. I’ve got a customer here…”

I move to the display case of PS3 games, letting him make his call in relative privacy. I’m looking for a few titles to build my new collection. I’ve had the PS3 for less than a week now, and I have a lot of catching up to do. There’s a copy of Ni No Kuni on the shelf for $15. I’m taking it.

Sam gets off the phone. “Yep, you’re right. What’s your name?” He checks my name and number on the list, and crosses me off. The steel book Black Armour Edition of Dark Souls II and a used copy of Ni No Kuni are paid for and in my hot little hands.

10:37AM. I tweet “Dark Souls 2 get! I might just skip all the way home!”

10:45AM. I arrive home. There are some things I need to do before I can begin my gaming session. The dishes from breakfast won’t wash themselves, and I know it. Once I get started, I plan to go until the kids get home in the afternoon, so I can’t have dirty dishes lying around.

11:12AM. I head downstairs. The game feels heavy in my hands, a pleasing weighty case. As the PS3 powers up, I take off the plastic wrap and admire the art on the sleeve. The steel book is even more impressive out of the sleeve, as the front is raised and textured. I open the case, and the installation begins. A small 125MB patch is downloading, and then it installs.

11:26AM. I’m in.

Posted on March 12, 2014 and filed under Article.

2014 is off to a great start for me

I haven't touched my Wii U at all this year, so far. And it's not because there's nothing to play on it, there's plenty waiting for me there to finish off. I actually spent most of the pre-Christmas break playing and finishing SUper Mario 3D World, which is a great game. But I'm not here to talk about that.

Instead, it's the 3DS that has commanded most of my gaming time in 2014. Fire Emblem: Awakening, in particular, and then the Bravely Default Demo, more recently. There's just something about being able to grab a few minutes pr gaming (or a few hours) here and there, wherever I happen to be, that's just magical. Fire Emblem: Awakening was my first Fire Emblem game. Approaching it as a noob, I really appreciated the new "Casual" mode offered this iteration, which lets you play through the game without permadeath of characters found in what they call "Classic" mode. I figured, I have no idea how to play, this should be the perfect mode for me.

And it was. I fought, I died, I continued on without major consequence. But then a funny thing happened along the way. Around about Chapter 12 I found that I was really enjoying the game. I mean really enjoying it. Something clicked for me.

I decided to restart the game on "Classic" instead of casual, and started right from the beginning again. It was a wholly different experience. No longer could I make a mistake near the end and just throw everyone at the last boss to win. I had to keep everyone alive, and I played much more conservatively. Any mistake was usually punished by losing a character, accompanied by the frustration of having to restart the game and try again.

But I learned through those restarts, and through the mistakes. I began to understand how to position my units, who was going to win which encounters, and who would die if I left them there.

And the game rewarded me with a wonderful little story, told in anime, and layered moving stills, and in game engine rendered sequences. I wish there were more of the anime cut scenes, but what was there was excellent. (I wish they had an anime series for Fire Emblem, it would be great)

This year is my "Year of the Pile", and after Fire Emblem I am working on finishing Dragon Age 2, and then maybe dip into Dark Souls a little bit. February I'm looking at the release of Bravely Default (also for 3DS) and then working through New Super Mario Bros U. Through 2014 I want to get at least 12 games off the pile, if not closer to 20.

Wish me luck, and here's hoping your gaming 2014 is filled with great experiences!

Posted on January 13, 2014 and filed under Article.

My Star Kickstarters of 2013

It seems that 2013 was the year of Kickstarter, at least for me. I backed quite a few video games, and couple of board games too. Whether you agree or disagree with the model, you can't argue with the fact that the number and size and scope of projects on Kickstarter is increasing.

You can always take a look at the sidebar to see which board game or video game project has currently caught my attention.

Here are some of the projects that I put a 'star' on this year.

Posted on December 20, 2013 and filed under Article.