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Tag Archives: nintendo

Super Mario Run was much hyped release that I tried out after its exclusive on iOS finished. I didn’t like it very much and I don’t think the hype was deserved. It is kind of like Mario mixed with Angry Birds mixed with Miitomo. You play a Mario level (and it auto runs so you only need one hand) repeatedly so you can get a high(er) score and get all the special coins. You can then use your total coin total to outfit your little town. There’s a PvP part as well where you race another player’s ghost to see if you can get the most coins. I didn’t enjoy the game because 1) I don’t enjoy the repetitive nature and frustration of completing a level perfectly in order to “3 star” a level, 2) the PvP doesn’t interest me, 3) I’m too old for town personalization and showing it off to friends. I also don’t like the general UI design (I guess that is DeNA’s style). The game doesn’t get the $10 from me to unlock it (the free part is really just a trial).

Mechcom was a thrown-in in a Humble Bundle that I bought, but it excels as a bare-bones RTS game. The game is straightforward, but the controls are pretty tight, and it is well suited for play even on mobile phone. I haven’t played it much but it seems to satisfy any RTS itch I might have. There’s a sequel to this game, which I also received. I’m not sure I will like that as much though because it adds more bells and whistles. This isn’t a game that I want to be heavily invested into.

I’ve been closely following Nintendo’s first smartphone “game” Miitomo and I was finally able to download and try it out last week. My interest stemmed from reading the initial description of it. It’s not really a game but a messaging app built around the concept of Miis. I remember creating myself as a Mii about 10 years ago, and they look just as cartoon-y now (although it’s neat you can generate a few versions from a photo). I was quite curious how Nintendo can make this a successful (and profitable) game.

After playing it for awhile, I can see that it may be successful. The target demographic seems to be female and/or young. It drives engagement by providing canned questions that can generate discussion (although in a way, that is also quite limiting to be forced into topics). Monetization is done via standard freemium means – you buy in-game currency which you exchange for clothes that outfit your character. There are a couple of very basic RNG games where you can win some unique clothing items. I can see how this app my appeal to Japanese people, but I don’t think it will be successful in North America (especially the male teen/young adult market).

The app itself also feels unnatural. It’s cross platform, but the UI is completely custom. It feels like a kid created the UI design (which may be on purpose) and feels unfinished (the look and constant appearance of loading indicators are driving me crazy). I hope this aspect improves in the future.

I might leave this app on my phone for awhile, but I’m not sure if it will get prolonged use (I say this about a lot of games and end up playing them for months though).

For kicks, I’ve been playing around with the 8-bit pixelate effect; you know, to make your pictures look like they came out of an original Nintendo system. Here’s an example:

With a little experimentation, I’ve found a procedure that seems to work well:

  1. Crop your picture to whatever you want to 8-bit
  2. Resize by a multiple of 2, using best quality. For normal pictures I do 1/8 (12%) or 1/16 (6%) size.
  3. Increase the contrast (I increase by at least 30/100)
  4. Convert the picture to use 32 – 64 colours. This depends a bit on your content, but you don’t want to make it look completely black & white.
  5. Resize up to the original size (i.e., 800% or 1600%) using nearest neighbor algorithm.

And now you’ll be in 8-bit glory!

I was excited when I heard about Scribblenauts. If you don’t know what it is, here’s a short introduction. I thought this game had as much chance pulling off the game mechanic, as it did teaching the younger generation how to spell; but surprisingly, they found a way to overcome the technical challenge, draw and define 22,000+ objects and fit it within 32MB!

The most fun in this game is the ability to summon random things and see how they interact with each other. Unfortunately, that is also its main problem. The puzzle/action aspect of the game isn’t rewarding enough to be addicting. I tried a few levels to see how they executed the idea and then haven’t really continued playing. Instead I’d stage momentous battles between Hercules and a glacier, which is fun for a bit, but then I go and do other things.

It’s been awhile since my last gaming post; I felt like I was playing Burnout Paradise a year ago! But that’s probably because I’ve burned through a couple of games since then.

I bought TMNT the same time as Burnout, not because I liked the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but because it was only $3 AND it’s an easy 1000 gamerscore. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a horrible game! It’s kind of like a Spider-man game because it’s a platformer and you have some weird stick-to-wall powers. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I had a fun time getting my +1000gs.

Then I started playing Mass Effect. This was one of the RPGs that I wanted to play on the Xbox360, and I finally saw it on sale for $9 at EB! It’s a bit strange; it’s role-playing, discovery and a FPS. But I when I’m playing one of the modes, I would want to play another one. I think it would be better if there was more action, and less talking/discovery. The FPS aspect is also really easy (or maybe because my character is sufficiently leveled now).

Next I moved on to the DS. The game I wanted to play was Rhythm Heaven, which is a Warioware type game, where all the mini-games are based on rhythm. This game is fun, except it’s incredibly difficult. I had problems with the first level, and now, not even 33% through the game, I’m stuck. Here’s Beyonce playing some Rhythm Heaven.

Now, I’m playing Ninjatown, which is basically just tower defense except you have ninja’s instead of towers. That’s pretty much it, but it’s really fun!

I’ve been playing Catan on 360 again since I’ve hit a lull in games-to-play. After not having played it for a few months, it’s fresh and fun; although I’m nearing the phase where I’m bored with it again.

To me, Settlers is an old game. I heard about it when I was in high school, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that it is only now hitting mainstream and getting popular. So popular, that Wired has an article on it. Indeed, I even saw it in Barnes & Noble in NYC. There’s a mention of Catan in the article too:

In 2006, Brian Reynolds, a founder of Maryland software company Big Huge Games and the programmer who developed the AI behind the addictive computer classic Sid Meier’s Civilization II, set out to make an Xbox 360 version of Settlers. To help programmers develop the game’s AI, Teuber spent months exploring the mathematics of his most famous creation, charting the probability of every event in the game. The odds of a six or eight being rolled are almost 1 in 3 for example, while the chance of a four being rolled is 1 in 12. There is a 2-in-25 chance of drawing a Year of Plenty development card. Teuber created elaborate logic chains and probability matrices in a complex Excel spreadsheet so the videogame developers could see how every possible move and roll of the dice—from the impact of the Robber to the odds of getting wheat in a given scenario—compared. The end result was a sort of blueprint for the game that gave Big Huge Games a head start and showed just how complex the underlying math was. “It was the biggest, gnarliest spreadsheet I had ever seen,” Reynolds says.

And I found that there’s a version of Settlers coming out for DS!

I didn’t have a SNES, nor a N64; so during those lean days I passed my time by using emulators. I’ve played a lot of the SNES RPGs and my favorite one of all was Chrono Trigger. The story was great and it was the first time I saw the newgame+ idea. This enabled me to try and max out my characters (although I got bored of it before then) without having to grind the same dungeons over and over again. It was like watching a movie again and again.

Now, Chrono Trigger has finally been ported to DS. It took long enough; the technical capability was all there from day one. I’ll play through it and see how it stands to time (and memory). Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to spend the time to max out my characters anymore.

The NXE (New Xbox Experience) dropped last week after a lot of hype since being announced in the summer. I was quite looking forward to it too because frankly the blade interface sucks. The change was like moving from Win95 to Mac OS X.

The most talked about feature, as long as you weren’t a hard core gamer, was the addition of avatars. Now you too can have a Microsoft Mii-clone. The avatar system on Xbox is definitely a generation ahead of the Nintendo Miis, where the Miis are cartoony, the avatars look somewhat life like. This was my Mii

Which as you can tell is not the best representation of yours truly.

My Xbox avatars look a bit better, although I still can’t create an accurate representation of me. There are a ton of customization options for your avatar (as long as you don’t want to pick clothes), but still the granularity of the choices are not fine enough. I particularly have a problem with the nose choices.

As there weren’t any interesting DS games to play, I started playing The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. I wasn’t interested in playing it when it came out because I am not enamoured with spending 10s of hours playing an adventure game; but there didn’t seem to be any games to play on the horizon so I started playing it.

I was surprised that it is actually pretty fun. The art is in comic book style and the animation is fluid (or as far as I can tell on my small screen). The controls set it apart though, as it makes it a true DS game. This is basically a stylus game since you use it to tell Link how to move. Originally I found it frustrating to not be able to use directional buttons to move, but now I’m accustomed to it. Using Link’s other tools are done with the inevitable drags and clicks.

I still think it’s kind of tedious, especially fighting and solving dungeons. The puzzles aren’t hard, and the rewards aren’t actually that great. So while I don’t mind playing it, now that there are some other games I want to try out (Ninja Gaiden, LEGO Indiana Jones), I just want to finish it.

My DS sat dormant for a good period in April. I had sent my dogs off to live in a hotel, and finished up Professor Layton awhile back. I had started Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Rings of Fate (whew let’s just call it FFCC:RoF) the same time as Professor Layton, but layed off on it for awhile since it had a multiplayer aspect. But then, it turns out that no one else wanted to play it so I finally went ahead and finished the game.

The RPG itself is rather short, I think there were less than 10 dungeons and it only took me about 15 hours. But then I played around with it a little bit more and it turns out that it’s not a bad game, and it’s pretty deep.

Multiplayer isn’t the same as Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for GameCube. In FFCC:RoF there’s a single player, AND a multiplayer mode; multiplayer is like single player without the story and well multiple real people, but you can’t play story mode with multiple people. I played multiplayer a bit with Pauline and I guess you could think of it like a limited, but free, but on a small screen World of Warcraft clone.

Single player has a tactic stolen from Chrono Trigger where after you finish the game, you can play the game again from the beginning with your current characters’ levels and items. It takes it a bit further with harder monsters, different drops and items so you can keep playing for better items and a maxed out character.

So I’ve kept playing and going through the game having been caught in the character level/reward structure. But it’s fun, at least, since I can’t find any other better DS games to play.

This weekend there was a TTC strike! It happened suddenly on Friday night, with no media build-up; so when I was out and about early-ish Saturday morning, I was on the lookout for any uninformed people waiting for the bus. I did see a couple of people sitting at bus stops, but for the most part the only effect were many more taxis around my ‘hood.

I did my taxes on Saturday. They had been “done” for awhile as I had been entering in the numbers as I received my T-slips, but I had to check things over and enter the DQ info. But then, I also did Pauline’s, her sister’s, and my mom’s taxes as well. Saturday evening I met up with a bunch of people to celebrate Charlie’s birthday. Afterwards we headed over to his place to watch Full Metal Jacket.

On Sunday, I went over to Nelson’s house to try out Mario Kart Wii and to play some Super Smash Brothers Brawl. The Wii version Mario Kart packages a wheel accessory with the game which you slip the Wiimote into. It’s gimmicky and hard to control though. They also added bikes which doesn’t seem right since it’s called Mario KART.

I got home at about the right time (although maybe 20 minutes later for the light) and went out to take some pictures of the cherry blossoms that were blooming in front of my building. Fortunately for me there are no not many tall buildings blocking the view to the west so I was trying to get the last glimmers of sun. Didn’t work out so well, but still pretty.

I haven’t been playing my DS as much the last little while. At the end of February, I finally stopped keeping my town “perfect” in Animal Crossing: Wild World. It wasn’t an addiction anymore but a chore, and besides I had amassed over 10,000,000 bells — thus achieving my life goal of being a Bellionaire. Since then I worked on unlocking the hidden drivers/carts in Mario Kart DS (easy) and adopted a couple of immortal dogs. But there was no game that really captured my interested.

I tried a couple of new games last week. SEGA Superstars Tennis is the SEGA version of Smash Brothers; i.e., a game based on all their brand characters, except playing tennis. It’s like Virtua Tennis and not that fun since it’s about 10 years old. I was enthusiastic about Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Rings of Fate even though it was an RPG. I’ve been avoiding RPGs because I don’t want to sink 60 hours into a game, repeatedly fighting useless monsters to get to boss battles. However, I’m giving this one a shot because it’s a multiplayer RPG, so four people can go on a quest at the same time. It’s fun in short bursts, but I need three other people to play with me because the computer-controlled teammates are pretty useless.

The game that is the most engrossing is Professor Layton and the Curious Village. It is an Adventure/Puzzle game, where the main characters visit a puzzle-loving town and solve puzzles posed by the villagers. Originally I was skeptical that I would like a game that’s basically a collection of brain teasers, but it’s actually fun because the game is designed like a Tim Burton cartoon, with the environment and characters having quirky features. Many of the puzzles are classics (find the element that weighs slightly less in 3 tries, or using 2 containers measure out a specific amount of liquid), but there are some more ingenious ones that I haven’t seen before. It’s worth trying and a much better alternative to Brain Age.

I backup my NDS saves every once in awhile so I don’t lose all my progress if my saves get corrupted or something worse happens. In the case of my (ninten)dogs, the added benefit is if they get hit by a truck for example, I can restore the backup and they can run around happily again.

I went to back things up early this week, but for some reason my card was unreadable. When I attached it to my desktop or laptop, it said it had to be formatted. But the weird thing was, when I put my card into my cameras, I was able to take and store pictures; and when I attached my camera to my desktop through a USB cable, I was able to copy the pictures off without problem. I figured that there might have been a corrupt entry on the FAT which prevented my computers from seeing earlier files, but I ran a variety of disk repair tools and it didn’t find any problem. Weird!

So I slept on it, and figured out another strategy. I would load a homebrew which would let me FTP the files over wifi. But in order to get this done, I would need a second card to verify that I copied everything off successfully, o I picked up a 2GB one on my way home from work (and it was only $12.99! These things are cheap now). Interestingly, when I used the new micro->normal adapter, my computer was able to read the card successfully! For some reason, my old Kingston Japanese-made adapter broke and was only able to read part of my card. I guess I’ll have to mail-order a USB adapter specifically for my card in order to prevent this hilarity from happening in the future.

I’ve been playing Phoenix Wright on DS recently. It’s a lawyer/adventure game where you’re a defense attorney defending the wrongly accused in some sort of court that’s inspired by actual court proceedings. It’s been highly rated, and so I feel obliged to try it out; plus, I couldn’t really understand how they would make a lawyer game.

The answer is that it’s a lot of reading! Basically you have to talk to a lot of people and listen to them talk (for clues you see). It’s actually more like a private-investigator game since you have to walk around the scripted menus and look for clues. That, in itself, is the main drawback of the game. Basically you’re playing in a world that’s the anti-thesis of the GTA games. You have to go along a specific path and uncover all the necessary information before you can satisfy the condition for the next event to occur. Combined with the slow pace of the character’s speech (I mean type on screen), it gets very frustrating.

The courtroom drama is not much better. Witnesses testify and you are given an opportunity to cross-examine them. The point is that you have to find inconsistencies between their stories and the truth, either by pressuring them or by showing specific pieces of evidence. Again, you have to follow a linear pattern and find the faults in sections of text that is about the length of a sentence, even if you’ve figured out what really happened. This basically ruins the game and cannot be overcome by the cool feeling you get when the facts fall into place and Wright pwns the prosecution by logic.

I’ve been playing Animal Crossing: Wild World. At first I thought it was really boring because I had previously played Animal Crossing on GameCube, but eventually it grew on me as I got into a schedule. Instead of playing for long periods, I ended up playing ~10 minutes a day, enough time to collect some shells, and find the money rock. To tell you the truth, with that explanation I can’t explain why I play it!

It’s marketed as a communication game, but I don’t really feel like writing letters to the other NPCs. Instead, I’m building up my virtual bell account. Selling shells and getting 8,500 bells a day from the money rock are baby steps to my end goal of building a large enough capital to play the Stalk Market effectively. The past week, I invested my first batch and bought ~1500 turnips at 100 apiece, and turned around to sell them for 230 apiece. This brought my wealth up to over 400,000 bells. I intend to invest it all again, but then I realized that I had a problem; I didn’t have enough room in my house to store all my turnips! So I took a short term hit of 120,000 bells to pay off my mortgage and expand my house. Now I have more room on my floor to dump turnips in my goal to be come my town’s first Bellionaire!

After owning a DS for only a month, the right hinge has already cracked! Apparently, this is a systematic problem that 0.02% of all DSes encounter; that’s 1 in ever 5000, but since Nintendo has sold 50 million DSes, that’s 10,000 DSes worldwide! I supposed I could live with it; except that in the end the right hinge might totally fall off. So I set out to get Nintendo to warranty replace it.

The whole process was pretty painless. First, I went on their website and filled in the warranty form. I received an email response with instructions on how to package the unit and Purolator it to them at their expense. But before I sent anything off, I wanted to make sure that any repairs would be covered under warranty since Nintendo had a policy of not covering physical damage.

I sent them an email with the description of the problem and a picture of the hinge, but received a canned response asking me to call in. I did and the person on the phone, while polite, did not seem to want to confirm Nintendo’s offer of free repairs on cracked hinges. Although after some time he did say that he would make an exception and cover it under the warranty.

So this morning, I brought my DS to the repair facility just south of Kennedy Commons. It’s a non-descript place without any mention of Nintendo until you enter the building (there’s a picture of Mario). I was able to immediately exchange my DS for a new one and the whole process took 10 minutes. The person actually exchanged it before asking me what the problem was, now I’m not sure whether this was because I had the recently-released Crimson model, or because my previous call had set a flag on my repair order saying that I was eligible for a replacement. The other thing I noticed was that there were existing “problem codes” for hinge problems (at least for the left hinge, which was what the person said my problem was — although it was really the right hinge).

Anyways, now I have a new shiny DS again, hopefully it will work properly as I haven’t tested it yet.

I’m retiring from Brain Age 2 having only attained an age of 24 (although I’ve only taken the test like 3 times — hate the stupid memorization test). I’m quitting for a couple of reasons, namely that I’m dead tired of the stupid narrator patronizing me and because the training exercises just are not fun.

Sign Finder is not too bad (although I keep having my + signs recognized as x and my / recognized as -), and the hard level with multiple inputs is actually challenging. I can do mental math though, and there’s no urgency for me to be able to do multiple permutations at increased speed.

Piano Player is a joke, even on hard. The only thing holding me back is my inaccuracy with the stylus.

Word Blend is too hard even in a quiet environment with the volume on max. I’m not sure what this mode is supposed to train except to prove that you’re not deaf. Plus, the hard mode is not even that much harder (they just make one of the words even harder to pick out).

World Scramble used to be my favorite, but I quickly got bored of it. Half the time it’s too easy and I can spot the word right away, and the other half the time there are words that don’t follow normal patterns and I just give up (i.e., Admiral).

Calendar Count is dumb. It’s a simple math, counting game with numbers divisible by 7. I never played this one after I tried it out.

Change Maker is practical but too easy. Once you learn the tactic to approach these problems, it’s a matter of clicking fast enough.

Memory Sprint is also pretty dumb. The trick is to count and add/subtract when necessary. Once you’re used to those steps, it’s easy to get perfect each time.

Clock Spin is probably the hardest of the training programs, and it exercises spatial thinking (which males are supposedly better at). I’m not very good at this one, but haven’t played it much because: 1) I unlocked it near the end and was already tired of playing it, and 2) it’s not fun!

Math Recall is the one I play everyday because it’s so easy. Even the hard mode is too simplistic as you only need 2 buffers in your brain to store the hidden numbers.

Block Count was the last training program I unlocked and like Clock Spin, it wasn’t fun and I don’t play it.

Virus Buster is a rebranded Dr. Mario where you have to drag the pills to the proper location. I don’t like the control scheme, and if I wanted a game like this then I’d just play Tetris.

Sudoku is pretty useful but I wouldn’t want to carry around an extra cart just to play it.

When I get frustrated with EBA (or my hands get too tired), I’m working on a couple of other games.

Feel The Magic XY/XX was a launch title that combined a variety of “tech demos”, packaged as mini games, with a stylish look and an interesting weird story. Judging by the box art, you can probably tell it’s not one of those Rated G titles. The protagonist is a mute guy wearing a blue hat and a goldfish shirt. As he’s walking along the street, he spots the girl of his dreams (who happens to not have a face but I digress…), and decides that his mission is to court her. And his means of doing this is to join a performance group called the Rub Rabbits.

As you go through the game, you and the Rub Rabbits do all sorts of things in order to impress the girl. It’s a bit like Wario but with less zaniness and more hilarty. As an example, in one game you have to rub all the dirt off the girl, in another you have to run over people on the highway and then load them into a slingshot to fling at a getaway car. It’s not all fun and games though, in another scene you have to unbutton the girl’s dress because her clothes are all wet after falling into the ocean. Yes it’s tough work indeed.

Some of the games are a bit tiresome because it involves fine stylus control (tip: play on a flat surface). As an alternate, I tried out Touch of the Dead. This game is similar to House of the Dead where you have to survive by killing zombies, but as there’s no gun attachment, you just use your stylus to tap on zombies (like a finger of death double death). The catch is that if you need to reload, you have to drag your bullets from one side of the screen to the other, and plus the time it actually takes to reload the gun, usually involves a couple of swipes from a zombie. I didn’t get very far in the game, but I don’t think the game would be that fun anyways. It is a bit of novelty, such as Typing of the Dead, which is why I gave it a whirl.

I’ve been playing Elite Beat Agents which is a rhythm game where you help random people with their problems by cheering them on. It makes no sense but a lot of these games ported from Japan don’t make a lot of sense anyways.

Rather than translate the Japanese version to English, Elite Beat Agents updates the music and random people stories so that they are familiar with American culture. The songs are radio hits, from artists such as Avril Lavigne, Madonna, and Jamiroquai; but have been re-recorded by imitation artists so that the licensing is cheaper.

There are two levels to start off, Breezin’ and Cruisin’. I started off at the harder of the two because I’ve had experience with rhythm games, and it wasn’t too bad. Although I did have to play some of the later songs 10s of times before I passed them. Finishing the game unlocks the next difficulty (Sweatin’) which I’m in the progress of working through. It’s a lot harder now, but more fulfilling because you now actually play in time with the music (and lyrics).

One problem with the NDS’ speakers is that, while better than a Game Boy’s (as well as the sound chip and storage capacity), it’s still lacking for this game. You really need to hear the intricacies of the instrumentation in order to play properly at high levels. This has led me to plug in my Sony cans in order to play, which doesn’t make the game very portable. But it’s fun to play (at least if you’re at home).

I needed to get a R4 for my NDS, but as it turns out the Chinese government closed down the R4 factory (or something like that), and the supply of it was pretty sparse (although they are back in stock now). Because of that, I ended up getting a EZ-Flash V w/ expansion pack for my (ahem) homebrew needs. It seems to be on par with the R4 except that fewer people use it (so less English material and more Chinese) and the microSD slot isn’t spring loaded (a pain in the ass, but not insurmountable). I think it’s a slightly better deal than the R4 because the expansion pack provides rumble, RAM (for DS Browser) and Slot-2 (for GBA games) support. Also because it was reasonably cheap and like, you know, in stock!

I bought it from DealExtreme, which has a lot of random tech components and things (I ended up buying a bunch of other useless junk). It’s kind of like the cheap stuff you can buy on Ebay except it’s from a store. It’s even shipped from HK too! When I ordered, I was worried that it would take a long time to get here (too cheap to pay an extra $13 for expedited shipping). I stuck with registered air mail, and my shipment took 12 days from order to arrival (4th), although it might have been less because there was a weekend and Labour day right before I received my order. It took 7 days (22nd to 29th) to leave HK, but once it was in Canada it was pretty quick. I broke up my order into 2 packages in order to hopefully avoid customs. One that was slightly under $20 and the other was $55. Fortunately, I didn’t get hit by customs for either packages; apparently I received a lot of LED flashlights as gifts.

On Saturday, Alex x 2, Andrew, Keith and I went down to the Metro Convention Centre for the annual Fan Expo. The Fan Expo is how do I put this mildly, a geek show. It was a comic/sci-fi/horror/gaming/anime convention all put into one; and I should also add that it should have been a Nintendo DS convention as well since it seemed like everyone there had one (I guess they knew they had to wait in line). This was my first time at one of these things, and it was an interesting look at this sub-culture, as well as a role-reversal since we would be the “cool kids” (i.e., jocks and the like) in the social hierarchy (or are we the losers since we didn’t dress up in costume?).

We showed up at 11 and started lining up with a lot of cosplay and NDS players. Alex was in a rush because the Tricia Helfer (of Battlestar Galactica and Canada’s Next Top Model fame) had her autograph session at noon. We finally were able to buy our $25 ticket at 12:30 and make it in. I have diverging thoughts about the price of the ticket. On the one hand, it’s a cheap ticket compared to other experience events (i.e., concerts), but OTOH it’s a hella expensive general convention ticket considering I thought $12 for the Auto Show was not really worth it. Although, before going in, I was tempted to get the $45 Deluxe pass which would have enabled me to go on Sunday as well, and to enter some of the premium events. But in the end, it wouldn’t have been worth it as I pretty much saw what I wanted to in one day.

Once we got our ticket, our plan was to hurry to the autograph booths, but of course we were delayed and sidetracked to take pictures of people in costumes. It’s like Hallowe’en for adults! Eventually we did get to the autograph session in time. The organizers had conveniently placed Six’s booth so that you couldn’t really get a good view of her unless you paid your extra money. This was tall Alex’s highlight of the show, so he paid his $10 for the photo, $2 for the photo protector and $25 for the autograph and got in line (and if you wanted a photo with her, it would cost you another $40!). Having different priorities; Alex, Andrew and I decided to get some lunch instead. We lined for Pizza Pizza, and ironically it turned out that the line was longer and we were served slower than Tricia Helfer! But the pizza was fresh and at only $20 wasn’t too much of a rip.

The cellphone service was horrible (i.e., non-existent; thank you 850MHz), so we had some difficulty meeting up with Keith. Eventually once we were all together we walked around the merchant area and display booths. There were a lot of people selling comics, figurines (i.e., toys) and other anime knicknacks. The horror section was basically filled with marketing campaigns for upcoming horror movie and DVDs. The gaming area was split into two halves, one featured competitions as part of the World Series of Video Games, and the other was a free area sponsored by Intel where you could play a variety of games. Surprisingly, there was little lineup in that area! Oh right, because everyone was playing their DSes.

The coolest area by far (well aside from all the cosplay) was the Artist Alley. Here, various well-known and not so well-known artists peddled their art. I bought a couple of limited prints by Peter Repovski of Daredevil, Spider-man and Batman, but there was a lot of other stuff that I wanted to buy (but where would I put them?). Another cool thing was that you could commission artists to draw someone for you, and it wasn’t too expensive. But in general, it was neat seeing how people would draw characters so that they were catchy and sellable (one way is nudity).

The most popular area was the autograph area. There were a couple of well-known people there: various Star Trek and Star Wars people, George Romeo, Malcolm McDowell and Adam West. The cool people to see for me were the Star Trek people. Robert Beltram, who played Commander Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager now had longer, shaggier hair. Dwight Schultz, who played Lt Barclay on Star Trek: TNG and Voyager looked much, much older. Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker on Star Trek: TNG looked a little older but much the same as he did in the movies. Andrew and Alex (he likes his autographs!) paid to get a sign picture with Frakes, and I was tempted to as well, but $25 doesn’t seem worth it. The last celebrity of note was Charisma Carpenter who appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Playboy. However, because I was taking pictures of Frakes I wasn’t able to be at her booth when she arrived and couldn’t get any good shots. By the time I arrived, they had placed a fat guy (must have been hard to find someone to fill that role at the convention) in the way to block the view.

On (short) Alex’s recommendation, we left the show area and headed to some sessions. Alex recommended the Sketch Offs where two artists are given a random artist to sketch while answering questions. At the end of the Sketch Off, each drawing was raffled off to a lucky audience member. The first one we saw was between Michael Turner and Oliver Coipel. I actually knew who Turner was because I collected Fathom way back when and apparently he’s been doing a lot of covers of comics that I follow. I don’t know Coipel at all, although he is drawing the current run of Thor (which I never started reading), and he had horrible answers to his questions. Although, I thought his drawing was better (maybe because he spent less time answering questions). The redeeming feature for him was that Andrew was the lucky winner of his Captain America sketch!

The next Sketch Off was not so great. It didn’t help that I didn’t know who any of the people were (nor what they drew). There were 3 anime artists from Japan (the guy who draws Trigun, the guy who draws Chrno Crusade, and someone else) and a local artist swapped and they drew each others’ characters. I suppose due to the difficulties of translating, instead of asking questions to the artists, the MC decided to kill time by selecting random people from the raffle and bringing them up to the front. You either had to say what you liked about the artists’ work (oops I knew no one), or otherwise entertain the audience for a minute or two. I thought this was a horrible idea because it made the audience part of the “show”. It was even worse when the artists weren’t finished on time so people kept getting called up. In the end, none of us got called up nor did we win in the raffle this time. The drawings themselves seemed better than the previous Sketch Off but I can’t really say because I don’t follow any of their shows.

And that was the end of a long but fun day, we went to East Side Mario’s for some dinner and then headed home.

I have had a lot of pressure lately, of the peer variety, to get a Nintendo DS Lite. I can, off the top of my head, name the following people that have one: Alex, Tsu, Keith, Victor, Nelson, and Ben. With so many people having one, it’s almost like the #2 must-have gadget (after an iPod of course). There have been a lot of deals for one recently; I could have bought one for $130USD in NYC, or a NDSL + Brain Age for $150 from Dell, or $140 at Zellers. There’s a lot of opportunity, a motive (to play multiplayer with friends) but no purchase. Why is that?

Well it’s not really the cost of the device that is the problem, it’s the utility for the cost. If I had a NDSL, it would sit at best as the #3 option for time-wasting, on-the-go, activity. The first on that list would be music (either through iPod or my phone), the second would be reading a book (otherwise I would never get through my book backlog); and if there’s no one else around (for conversation) and I didn’t have my camera, then I would probably appreciate a NDS.

It had crossed my mind to buy one lately, the driving factor being that I have to sit through another Convocation ceremony soon. I think I’ll probably end up bringing some headphones, or a book, or a friend (and I’ll have my camera anyways).

There are so many of us that play Warcraft, that we have enough people to create a Warcraft clan from just people that we’ve actually, physically met in R.L. (i.e., Real Life).

Amazing I know, so it is with no surprise that we would all gather together on a Friday night (although it was more like a Saturday thanks to the long weekend) to have a Warcraft party, graciously hosted at Ben’s pad. We ended up with 10 computers with half of them being laptops, although between the 2 Victors they brought like 5 computers! Good thing for the LCD revolution.

Nelson also brought along his Wii so that all the non-nerds at this nerd party would have something to do. We spent a lot of time shaving sheep, milking cows, and other tiring hilarity. This story is useless without videos, but I have the next best thing: BOOP party pictures on Facebook.

I rarely make it out to the STC nowadays, and every time I go there’s always something new. This time, I discovered a new candy store that sold your normal sweets plus retro candy from when I was a kid. They also had all sorts of Pez dispensers, ranging from Star Wars and Disney to Hello Kitty. I liked the tins the most, including this tin that was in the design of a classic Nintendo controller. Cool!

While perusing the RFD forums, I came across a post which mentioned that Futureshop was clearing out their bongos for $20! It was an old thread from before the new year, but there was some recent reports that FS had them back in stock, so I stopped by the FS on the way home from work.

Unfortunately for me, they didn’t have any in stock. So I left it at that, I didn’t really need bongos anyways. Anyways, I was down at the local Staples last week, printing out my thesis, where I had a 30 minute wait; so I decided to check out the (much more convenient than the original one I checked) Futureshop. Lo-and-behold, they had not one, but two pairs of bongos left. I was tempted to buy both, but I decided against it.

If you are at this point, scratching your head wondering why I would goto Futureshop to buy bongos or why I would want bongos in the first place, maybe you should read this review of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat first.

DKJB was Nintendo’s answer to DDR or Guitar Hero, but based on their strong brand lineup. I suppose bongos were the best they could do unless you wanted a game where you strum a plunger or hit a triangle with a sword. The interesting thing about DKJB was that it wasn’t a music game (I actually wanted to get Donkey Kong Konga which was the music game), it’s an adventure game. In the vein of Sonic, you have to guide DK to pick up bananas and then fight a boss at the end of each level. I had in the past tried to play normal games using a DDR pad, which doesn’t work out so well, but this game was designed to be played with bongos!

I put DKJB through a quick playtest over the weekend, and it’s a hoot. It’s not intuitive that you have to clap (or hit both bongos? I can’t remember now…) to jump so usually when I have to do stuff, I just end up bongo-mashing. But it is still quite cool and fun, because DK does all sorts of chaotic stuff on the screen and eventually I end up at the end of the level. At that point, there’s a boss fight which usually entails figuring out the attack pattern, and then paralyzing the boss. When this happens, it’s CRAZY TIME where you have to hammer on the bongos as fast as you can to do all sorts of critical hits — quite hilarious and tiring.

I’m glad I got this game, and it was a pretty good deal. Here are some random things I want to say, but couldn’t fit in:

  • The graphics are pretty advanced because DKJB was released in 2005 (one of the last GC games); there are some Monsters Inc-type hair effects!
  • I saw a set of bongos only (i.e. no game) for $40 when I bought this. That didn’t seem to make much sense since packaging the game was like -$20.
  • It’s too bad there’s no multiplayer mode, because this seems like a neat party game.