Malik (11/22/04)  

When Nintendo first announced the DS in a major way, earlier this year, I was quite skeptical. I mean when Nintendo does innovation in a supposedly portable system, they usually do it in the worst possible way. I mean think about the Virtual Boy and the horror that surrounded it. So, with a dual screen system I was a bit skeptical...especially since I was expecting two expensive screens or two low quality screens. Luckily the in store demos proved that to not be the case since the screens have great resolution and the asking price is just $150. 

Then, there's the matter of touch screen. This seems like an interesting concept that would probably come off as more of a nuisance in practice. The in store demos proved that it wasn't too bad, but it still doesn't mean shit when you think of playing a game with this type of control for 30 hours. Well... 

Yesterday I picked up my DS. Along with the packed in Metroid demo, I also picked up Mario 64 DS since I was in a nostalgic mood for something that's on the platform side of things but is not as overly complicated as many 3D platformers are currently playing. 

So far, I have to say the DS has more than impressed me. This device not only has none of the "innovative but will flop because it's a piece of shit" vibe that the Virtual Boy and pwN-Gage had, but is really impressive. The visuals are really sharp (Mario 64 looks about 3 times clearer and more detailed than the original), the touch screen it a brilliant way to bring an analogue control into a device that doesn't have room for a proper analogue stick, and the sound quality is insanely good for a portable. 

So far, I've only come across a couple of minor issues with the DS. The first one, and easiest to solve, is that the touch screen feels foreign and clunky when you first start to use it. In fact, on Mario 64, poor Yoshi missed quite a few easy jumps and was frustrating me like no other 3D Mario game ever had (which is saying something considering how unresponsive Mario 64 was and how Mario Sunshine would magically fall through the world, from time to time, to his demise). However, within a few minutes, the control become second nature and I'm now playing far better with the touch screen than I ever did with the N64 analogue stick. Then, when I used the touch screen on the Metroid Prime: Hunters demo, I was beyond amazed at how well this input format works for an FPS. I think the use of a stylus with this touch screen might be the innovation that will finally allow for a good FPS on a portable (hell, the demo of Metroid is one hell of a good FPS, and it's only a demo). So, no matter how silly the touch screen concept may seem, in the end it may have been the innovation that opens a truly new realm of game playing. 

Speaking of the potential of the DS...with how crisp and clean Mario 64 made the transition to the DS, I'm left with one ultimate hope...however, I fear it may never come to be. If Mario 64 can be on the DS and look and feel better than the original, then why not make the ultimate four player game on the DS; Smash Bros. I mean the touch screen would be almost useless, but the second screen could easily serve as an overall view while the main screen serves as a view of the immediate area around your fighter (thus getting rid of the annoyance of sudden zoom-ins and -outs as characters move and die). Plus, with the download abilities of the DS (which allow for up to 15 people on 15 DSes to play off of one cart on a single host DS), it would be an easy title to take advantage of this feature. Who knows, even a more than 4 player version of Smash could be possible with each player having their own screen. Plus, there are more than enough buttons on the DS to handle this type of game (it has all the face buttons on a GCN, plus select, and two shoulder buttons). I know it's probably just a pipe dream and I'm only getting my hopes up, but I bet a game that sold as well on the GCN could easily push sales for the DS through the roof (I know a few people who would probably be more inclined to buy a DS just for a Smash game). 

Also, on the note of the DSes potential...it's a shame that there are so few games at launch and that these games seem to remind me of the PS2 launch.  In other words, they are mostly a poor lot with no hope of a good title for a few months.  The only exceptions seem to be the included Metroid demo (and a demo shouldn't count as one of the best games for a system), Super Mario 64 DS (which is only a slightly improved port of an 8 year old game), and from what I understand Feel the Magic is supposedly a stand-out title (assuming you're a fan of the absurd...like Wario Ware).

So, as you could probably guess, I did not get too much Halo 2 in, again, this weekend. In fact, I had no game time beyond the DS except for some Paper Mario on Saturday. I'm now about 60% done with Paper Mario, and still hating (but obsessed with finishing it) every minute. I don't know how Nintendo could manage to make such a game that evokes such a strong sense of anger, but is still, ultimately, fun and addictive. But I guess that type of game is Nintendo's specialty (almost every Mario related title since Mario 64 has been this way). I'm hoping that I can finish Paper Mario soon so I can devote more time to Halo 2 and to the DS...damn...I've never been so enthralled by a portable system in my life. Plus, I'm hoping to get in time with my other purchase from Saturday; Sky Gunner. I know, it's an old game and there are so many new titles to play, but I don't care. I'd rather drop a whopping $9 on a game I know is sweet than blow $55 on a pile of shit that may only sit around collecting dust (not that Halo 2 is bad, but that $55 paperweight is only collecting dust for me right now). 

Anyway, as I said, I've got games to play and some strategizing to do...like how to get a good screen shot of the DS in action...I hate to revert to showing games via a digital camera, but I may have to resort to this. Blah. 


Malik (11/23/04)  

I was aiming to do a lot of things last night...I wanted to play some Paper Mario...I wanted to play Sky Gunner...I wanted to play Mario 64 DS...I wanted to do a lot of things, and pretty much failed. Too many real world things came up, and by the time I was done with all of these "responsibilities", I was too worn down to do much more than play for 1 star on Mario 64 (a whole 5 minutes), play for 10 minutes on Paper Mario, look at the box for Sky Gunner, and then play some Heroes of Might and Magic 3. In fact, you could pretty much say my night was a bust.

However, I did get a little of time in with a bonus feature of Mario 64 DS. They added, to make the game feel more complete and less of a total rehashing of old gaming, a couple of bonuses. The first one is that they added a couple dozen extra stars (I think it's 20 to be precise) to force us all to play an extra play through of each world (which is one of the few things I hated from Mario 64 the first time around...that and the controls/camera angles). They also added the extra characters; now you start the game as Yoshi, who cannot physically punch/attack like Mario, but he can swallow enemies and store them as eggs to launch at a later time. Yoshi can also do his really lame looking (but quite useful when you're still learning the controls) flutter jump in which he can hove for a short time (the same move from Paper Mario for the GCN that Yoshi uses on the map screen). Then, on top of Yoshi and Mario, you can play as Luigi (who's supposedly teh broken) and Wario (who's supposedly teh gay). Then, with four player characters, the obvious of 4 player combat mode (in which you fight for stars) is included.

That's all well and good, but the most addictive feature of Mario 64 DS is the "Rec Room". When you first play the game, the Rec Room consists of 2 playable mini-games for each of the four characters (they are classified by character, but this doesn't affect the nature of the game all that much...except for how Luigi has a gambling problem and tries to push it on you with his mini-games). As you play the game, however, and you switch what character you're playing as, you will find some small rabbits running around the castle. If you manage to catch a rabbit (which is easier for certain characters...like Yoshi with his tongue reach), then it will unlock a new game under the icon of which character you were playing as at the time. In the end, there's something like 8 or 10 games per character.

The actual Rec Room games are insanely fun and simplistic. They tend to play like a more evolved version of a Wario Ware mini-game, but can go on for longer than the standard Wario Ware 5 seconds. All of the games involve using just the stylus and touch screen (some work better with the thumb pad, but still the touch screen is the only active control...everything else pauses the game) to do some simple, but addictive act. It's like what you may find with some web based games, but without the slow load times, the pop-ups, etc. For example, one of Yoshi's game is a Where's Waldo game in which the top screen shows a face (of one of the four player characters) and you need to point to it on the touch screen...however, the screen will eventually (after about 3 easy rounds) be filled with countless copies of the faces you're not supposed to find. Then, you have a short time limit to find the proper face (with a deduction in time if you click a wrong face...and a bonus of 5 more seconds when you find the right face). Your time carries from round to round and you basically go into a frantic mode to just find Mario/Waldo.

All of the games come down to this simplistic game play which you can't help but become addicted to. Also, the games have a nice balance of action, puzzle, memory, and confusion (like Yoshi's flower game...you know the game...pull off petals while saying "She loves me", "She loves me not"...it's an actual game on this...sort of...).

Also, yesterday not only did my copy of Naruto 3 (GCN) show up (since my brother is back from the paradise of a vacation in Japan), but so did my Action Replay (with FreeLoader). I still need to find the time to pick up the game, but I aim to play it before Thanksgiving with my bro and then spend the entire day Thursday playing between eating (and cooking) with some friends. Then, once again, I'll bring along another review for a game that will never see our shores (like Ultimate Parodious), but will show how we get ripped off in terms of getting the best games.


Malik (11/24/04)  

Well, last night's post was actually a belated and out of date post. I wrote that early on in the day and thought that I would update after I got home from visiting my brother (and playing some Naruto 3 with him). Sadly, I forgot the King of Spain was in Seattle...that seems random, I know, but it has an important bearing on my night last night. The traffic on I-5 (the interstate between my home and where my brother's at) was insane from cop cars swarming on to each disabled vehicle as if they were terrorist threats...all because there is a king of Spain in town...my commute went from what should have been 1-1.25 hours (round-trip) to a mess of about 3 hours...3 HOURS TO GO 32 MILES! So, no offense, and if you're Spanish or just have pride in Spain, I'm sorry but...I F$#@ing hate the King of Spain right now. Ok, I had to say that... 

I'm still playing Paper Mario, but I'm nearing the end. Not the end of the game (I only have 4...almost 5...out of the 7 crystal stars), but the limit of my tolerance. Like other Mario games, this started off fun and innovative and exciting. However, with about 15 hours of playing, it got tedious. I'm now at 20 hours and I feel like my brain is going to implode from this lack of entertainment. So, like I said I'm at 20 hours, so my review is being put to paper (or monitor). I should have it out in a few days (depending on how Thanksgiving treats my Geek-Asylum time). 

Luckily, Mario 64 DS is nicely filling the void that is forming in my heart for Paper Mario. Best of all, with the mini-games on 64, I have something to divert my attention from the tedium of the standard Mario game. Also, being able to play with the touch screen as an analogue stick is really good for the game play of this title (well, after you get used to it...before then, it is horrible and confusing). 

Best of all, however, is my new Naruto 3 (GCN - Japanese). For those 5 people who actually played it, it reminds me of the Wu Tang Clan fighter for the PS. At least in the basic combat engine for more than 2 people in a fight. Otherwise, it plays like Rival Schools by being a 2D fighter in a 3D world. The controls are simple and fun (it's Smash Bros. style controls with most actions requiring a direction and A or B), the graphics look like the anime perfectly, and the story...well, it's like the anime, I think...since I can't read Japanese, I can tell that many of the fights are from the anime, but I don't know if the actual dialogue is right or not, but I couldn't care less since the game is so sweet. Sadly, the "mission mode" of Naruto 3 requires some weird conditions to win, and these conditions are not legible to a non-Japanese speaker. In other words, Gamefaqs.com is saving my sanity and my ass right about now since all of the mission requirements are clearly stated on the Naruto 3 FAQ section. 

Best of all, the four player battles are unbelievable fun. I only played 2 players with 2 computers thrown in, but the action was crazy, fast, and had the spirit of a Smash battle. I'm hoping to get some new character unlocked soon (you only start with about 10 characters...including Chouji and Perverted Hermit...which shows that the initial selection is very good, so it's still fun without unlocking new ones) so I can have some good 4 player battles tomorrow when friends come over for Thanksgiving. 

Well, my posts for the next couple of days may be scattered or absent with the holiday. However, I have a small Malik's Bitchings (which may grow) ready for Friday, and I will work towards a Paper Mario review. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.   Ok, as a special holiday treat, here's that review of Paper Mario!  I am that damned good.  I'll even throw in a nifty new video of Paper Mario, while I'm at it.  Happy Thanksgiving to all.