Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Now the Positive side of the 3DS - Kid Icarus: Uprising

Yesterday I talked begrudgingly about Nintendo's new 3DS and my thinking that 3-D gaming is more of a trend than anything more. Now that I have gotten that out of my system, Kid Icarus: Uprising looks like a title that will bring hardcore gamers into the trend quickly.

Nintendo historically has created systems that appease the entire family and gets slapped with a "not for true gamers" stigma. However, the 3DS is showing both Nintendo and third-party support for hardcore gamers. Kid Icarus: Uprising is just the beginning. But, a new Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid, with talks of games in the works with titles like Street Fighter, Madden, Final Fantasy, Ninja Gaiden, Assassin's Creed, Saint's Row among others - can Nintendo use this platform as a way to shake the cute, family oriented console brand and become an actual console aimed for the naysayers/"true gamers".

Will I be purchasing a 3DS? I don't know. I have a hard time believing I won't be seeing as I have owned every Nintendo console since the NES. I will have to see how the launch titles play out in 2-D to see if I am wasting my money (see yesterday's post - Is Nintendo Jumping on the 3-D Bandwagon Prematurely?). From the trailer below, it looks as though Kid Icarus: Uprising will play nicely in either 2-D or 3-D mode so I will have to wait and see. Take a peek.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Is Nintendo Jumping on the 3-D Bandwagon Prematurely?

The e3 announcement of the 3DS has been pretty much the talk of the video game town since e3 came to its flailing end. Initially the thoughts of a 3-D based video game system angered me to my very core. The reason being, like 4-10% of the population (depending on which source you use), I cannot see in 3-D. You may be thinking, "wait, you can't see in 3-D - what does that mean?" Very little. I see very similar to the rest of the world - it isn't like I am walking into chairs and the world doesn't look like a big picture book. I have a problem with my eyes and they never learned to work together which is a requirement in order to see 3-D. Seeing in 3-D is a learned skill not naturally given and since my eyes didn't work together, I was never able to learn to see in 3-D.

My life was fine without 3-D. I may have missed out on a lame monster movie when I was younger or may have been unable to see Freddy Krueger slice and dice in 'A Nightmare on Elm Street 6' but overall I didn't feel shorted by my disability, if you can call it that. Then...James Cameron, the cold hearted bastard, decided to come out with 'Avatar' and make the entire world go batshit crazy about 3-D. A bad movie is still going to be a bad movie even in 3-D (I'm looking at you countless horror movies that are being released in 3-D this summer). Not saying that 'Avatar' was a bad movie. I never saw it. I could of course watch it in 2-D but from what I hear - the glory of the movie lies in the 3-D effect not in the story itself. Personally it looks rather inane to me, but I digress.

Once 'Avatar' hit its great success, the 3-D bandwagon became full quick and Nintendo was sure to jump right on. It took very little time for them to announce that they were creating a 3-D handheld. It also took very little time for some video game pundits to start raising some questions about 3-D. Nintendo silenced them by announcing that the player could play the games in 2-D.

Now, as a non-3-D seer, let me put it to you this way, seeing a 3-D movie in 2-D is like being sober at 2 in the morning at a frat party - not really a whole lot of fun. Game developers are going to make the games knowing that the user's will be seeing them in 3-D so a great deal of the content will be lost in 2-D. Think of playing the Super Nintendo without the ability to see the Mode 7 pieces of the games - most of your favorites would be missing the wow factor that made you fall in love with them in the first place.

The reason that Nintendo's arm was twisted for the 2-D capability is twofold. One, it appeases me and my disabled core of non-3-D seers and two, it allows children under 7 to still be able to play it. Medically, it could have adverse effects on children under 7 to see 3-D imagery.

There are now reports from some scientists and researchers saying 3-D films can have adverse effects on those greater than age 7 possibly causing blurred vision, headaches, eye strain, eye fatigue or even nausea seeing as the eye must readjust its normal focus in order to see 3-D (1). A study by the University of California Berkeley has shown that 3-D can cause unhealthy brain functions, especially those of younger viewers (teenagers and younger), but reduce in older adults (50's+) going against Nintendo's demographic (2). According to Russian eye doctors, too much 3-D during a short amount of time can cause paranoia and delusions. They state that users shouldn't view 3-D movies more than three or four times a week (total of 6-8 hours of gaming time a week - try restricting a 13 year old gamer to less than an hour a day). For some with particular medical issues, 3-D should be avoided altogether (3).

Now, let's take all of this into perspective. Children under the age of 7 shouldn't watch 3-D movies or play 3-D games. Anywhere from 4-10% of the population cannot see in 3-D. New research has shown potential health risks with too much 3-D (which, if the 3DS is found to have adverse effects on children, the American backlash alone will be pretty severe). Is Nintendo making a mistake jumping on this bandwagon when the Wii and DS are still successful? Even more important, how will Sony and Microsoft challenge Nintendo with these hurdles that Nintendo will have to jump (mentioned above)?

[1 - voanews.com]
[2 - io9.com]
[3 - io9.com]

Friday, June 18, 2010

Top 7 Pre-Fifth Generation Women Protagonists in Gaming

Before Lara Croft, Beyond Good and Evil's Jade, and Alyx Vance gamers were not given many women lead characters in games.  Perhaps it was the traditional Japanese views on women, thoughts that gamers wouldn't be interested in playing as a woman, or that there was not a strong enough female audience to garner the need for strong women characters.  But alas, I came up with seven pre-fifth generation (fifth generation is PS1, N64, Saturn) strong women protagonists in video games.

7. Princess - Super Mario Bros. 2.  While my disdain for Super Mario Bros. 2/Doki Doki Panic remains unaltered, I have to put her in here for no other reason than, without her, some of the jumps would have been unbearable.  The Princess goes from helpless victim to a long jumper who would make Carl Lewis jealous.  Question 1, if she could jump so far, why wouldn't she just have jumped over Bowser in Super Mario Bros. 1?  Question 2, how old is the Princess since she was able to nearly double in size from Super Mario Bros. 1 to Super Mario Bros. 2 - that is one helluva growth spurt.  The Princess showed that even perfectly prim and proper ladies such as her have no trouble picking up a jumping snake and throwing it an unfathomable distance.

6. Tyris Flare - Golden Axe.  The big amazon whose father and mother were murdered by Death Adder uses her magic to take on the multitude of enemies in Turtle Village (Turtle Village, couldn't come up with anything better?).  Why she needed to be in a bikini to do this, not quite sure?  Perhaps she comes from the imagination of a developer like Mouse's dream girl in the red dress from The Matrix.  Either way, her inclusion is important since she was created as a powerful and necessary character being given the greatest amount of magic.  On top of that, when she dies, her shrieking, 'ahhhhhhhh!!!' is both frightening and hysterical.

5. Yuko Ahso - Valis III.  Yuko was in all of the Valis series but Valis III on the TurboGrafix CD-ROM was a personal favorite - especially the American CD-ROM where the acting of the characters is hysterical.  Talk about no inflection in the voice whatsoever, too funny.  The warrior of Valis wielded her sword, took on some tough enemies, and used magic with the best of them.  And when someone dared to call her a 'chick', given rather boringly, it was met with an equally boring, 'get outta my way if you don't want to get hurt'.   Any questions?

4. Nei - Phantasy Star II.  I have talked on more than one occasion about the developer's of Phantasy Star II crushing my soul when I was younger by killing off one of the coolest RPG characters of all time, Nei.  There are other RPG women that could have fallen into this category - Ayla from Chrono Trigger, Mara from Dragon Warrior IV, and Terra from Final Fantasy III come quickly to mind but Nei embodies everything you could ask for when working through an RPG.  She is powerful as hell, her storyline is interesting from the beginning, and her death is a complete shock and climactic moment in the game.  If you don't agree and think one of the aforementioned ladies deserve this honor instead, too bad, this is my list!

3. Ms. Pacman - Ms. Pacman.  Whenever I read lists that discuss important and interesting lead characters in games, I am amazed that Ms. Pacman is always ignored.  While her husband is better known by name alone, the wife is the one who was in the much better game.  She was faster, the boards changed from level to level, and the ghosts didn't follow set patterns.  If Donky Kong is the grandfather of arcade classics then Ms. Pacman is the grandmother and easily belongs on this list.

2. Chun Li - Street Fighter II.  Of course she is going to be on here.  She was my favorite character in Street Fighter II and her swift kick was, in my humble opinion, the only way to whoop the ass of opponents.  Not convinced?  She had a movie starring Kristin Kreuk made about her.  Name me another female character pre-Tomb Raider to have that honor. 

1. Samus Aran - Metroid.  Anyone that was alive in the 80's and was able to beat Metroid in the time allotted to find out the big secret behind Metroid knows why she is number one.  Up until that time pretty much any gamer I had ever met would have assumed that whoever (or whatever) behind the Metroid armor had to be a guy.  We were trained to think that way for one basic reason - we had no basis of comparison.  Try to think of one female video game character that bombed, missiled, jumped, and shot through a game before Samus.  I bet you can come up with about, oh...50 male characters.  Samus crossed the ass kicking line among the sexes and shown that Bill and Lance weren't the only ones that could take out some aliens.  Why did she need to be in a bikini when we found out - who knows?  And, who is going to question her apparel?  Any woman that big a bad ass does not deserve to answer your petty questions.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another Retrogame you probably Never Heard of: Jumpman Junior

When I was a kid, all I really wanted was an Apple II. All the cool kids had one and I wanted to be a cool kid. My dad came home one glorious afternoon when I was in the fourth grade and told me that he bought a computer. I was ecstatic. My Apple II was finally here. He opened the large Toys R Us bag to unveil an Atari 800XL. What the hell is that? We already had an Atari in the house - the 2600. What the hell am I going to do with this - it's a 2600 with a keyboard.

It took me a little time to get used to my Atari 800. It wasn't as cool as the Apple and it wasn't as popular as the Commodore but it still had some nice features. It was the first computer that I started programming on, which I would end up making a career out of but happily the languages became a bit more complex than BASIC.

10 print "hello world"
20 goto 10

Anyway, getting back to the game. Spy Hunter was a pseudo-computer hit as was Jungle Hunter but the game that stood out on the 800XL was Jumpan Junior. I was surprised that whenever I bring up Jumpman Junior in conversation (which doesn’t happen too often) I will find, if I am lucky, one out of ten that have even heard of it and they only knew of it because of its Commodore and Commodore 64 brethren.

To give a quick synopsis - apparently terrorists planted bombs on Jupiter and it is Jumpman Junior's job to go around and dismantle the bombs (I am really curious how Google and other search engines are going to handle 'terrorist planted bombs on Jupiter' - wonder if it will get me on some FBI watch list). As a side note, what is up with the unoriginality of gaming developers in the late 70's/early 80's? Mario was originally Jumpman, and then there was the Commodore Jumpman, followed by his spawn - Jumpman Junior. Can they not come up with something besides Jumpman? Was Leapman, Skipman, Bounceman, and Hopman taken?

Epyx release Jumpman Junior as a sequel (sort of, it was pretty much the same game just with different levels) to Jumpman released in 1983. While similar to Donkey Kong and even more similar to Donkey Kong Junior, Jumpman Junior takes the concept of the original platformer and adds a bit of speed (that you could pick from 1-8 how fast you moved), some damn fine music for the era, and more difficult enemies to avoid than some rolling oil drums.

I am not going to compare Jumpman Junior straight up to Donkey Kong (which I more or less did tongue-in-cheek in the previous sentence). Donkey Kong is the Godfather of video games and should be treated with respect. But, Jumpman Junior added some elements that were missing from Donkey Kong. The enemies were tougher to dodge - especially the random shots that come from just about anywhere. The graphics definitely didn't compare, Jumpman Junior looked more like someone was playing a game of hangman then creating a character but it was 1983.

To sum up, if you are reading this and you have a European Wii, you can get it for Virtual Console. Supposedly it was going to come out for the American Virtual Console but at this point, it is simply not going to happen. The only other way that you can get your hands on it would be to emulate via the computer, or pick up an 800XL (or Commodore, I suppose) from eBay and break out some serious floppy disk goodness.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Faith Restored: Facebook Ads Know Me Better Than I Thought

Usually Facebook's ad engine just throws irrelevant ads at me like we don't even know each other.  After hundreds of ads featuring the creepy guy constantly trying to give me money, StubHub trying to sell me tickets, and Netflix trying to get me to sign up for a membership, I had nearly given up on Facebook.  My faith was on the cusp and then today they hit me with an ad that was obviously written just for me.  Thank you Facebook.  My faith has been restored and yes I agree that day drinking is hard work and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it easier and cheaper. 

Look how day drinking helped Yasmina Villasana.  She was able to do this at 6 a.m. (is that technically day drinking?)  And, don't worry, she walked away with only minor injuries after trying to get back into her car that was ablaze.  Ah day drinking, you are truly my only friend.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Facebook New Privacy Recommendations are a Joke

The long anticipated Facebook updated Privacy Settings are starting to be unveiled and, as expected, they do nothing different than what was already available.  I will even go one step further, since they have added the Facebook 'Recommended' settings, they are trying to tell users that it is ok to have personal information available.

Let's take a look at the information Facebook recommends for everyone: my status, photos, and posts; bio and favorite quotations; family and relationships.  Is that information that should be available to the world?  That seems a bit much.  Do I want someone I never met, who may or may not have just gotten out of prison for murdering and eating his family, to know my bio, about my family, and take a look at my pictures?  Probably not.

Here is what is friends of friends: photos and videos I'm tagged in; religious and political views; birthday.  Why the hell would friends of friends need, or care, about my religious views or my birthday?  They don't know me.  And, if they did, they would be friends with me.  Ugh.

Finally, friends only is: comments on posts; email (spelled wrong - it's e-mail) and IM; phone numbers and addresses.  Fine.

Now, look at everything that I put in the three paragraphs above this sentence and make sure each and every item is friends only and if you want to give Facebook the finger while doing it, that is acceptable. 

It is your call on 'Let friends of people tagged in my photos and posts see them'.  Theoretically, since your photos are set to friends only, friends of friends should only see the photo you took with the individual tagged and not other photos.  However, if you are like me - if they are not my friend, why would they want to look at my photos at all no matter who is in the image so...hell, no - unchecked.

All the other settings that I discussed in my last post still exist under 'Applications and Websites' (FYI Facebook, it is spelled Web sites).  In short, don't listen to Facebook and protect your privacy since they have shown over and over again that they will take any opportunity they can to expose it to the general web.