Archive for the ‘GameCube’ Category

Pokémon Colosseum

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

The Pokémon Stadium games were always kind of niche titles. They aren’t really much on their own, and they depend on having other games to get the complete experience out of them.

No bonus points for guessing the gist of the next game in the series.

Pokémon Colosseum is basically the same as Stadium and Stadium 2. You take your team of monsters that you’ve caught and trained in your portable game and you have them battle it out in glorious 3D. There are a couple of differences in the game mechanics, but they don’t really matter much. The differences I was concerned about were of a different variety.

The big one for me was that the Nintendo 64 versions supported the Transfer Pak, a device that let you plug the game directly into one of your controllers. Which, I admit, doesn’t sound all that exciting, but those games gave you some fairly powerful management abilities as a side effect, which was actually really awesome because the management abilities in the game were nearly nonexistent.

Colosseum, though, uses a cable to connect your Game Boy to your Game Cube. You forgo lots of your management abilities with this new arrangement, for some reason, but you do get slightly better management capabilities in the portable part, so that’s pretty much a wash.

One of the things that is slightly different about this game, other than the supremely-annoying announcer going away, is the removal of the mini-games. It’s not a great loss or anything, the games weren’t anything special but were kind of a nice diversion. But they’ve been replaced with something a little more substantial, a mini-RPG.

The RPG is kind of like a watered-down version of the full Game Boy game. You take your guy on a little quest to rescue Pokémon who have had their ‘hearts closed’ by some evil organization, which makes them all shadowy and evil. Your job is to find them, catch them, and purify them… while stopping the evil organization if you have the time.

I got kind of a bit of play out of the Battle Mode of this game, but didn’t really make it too far. This is mostly because the game didn’t really offer me anything new over the last two games. Yeah, the tag-team battles were nice, and the rewards were kind of neat, if I would have taken the time to get them. But this game is a lot more fun to play against an actual person instead of the computer, and since most of my friends that have Game Boys didn’t actually get games that were compatible with it, that wasn’t really going to happen.

But, there’s that RPG mode!

The RPG modes of the Game Boy games have always been about roaming the world, catching wild pokémon, and assembling them into an awesome team. In this one, though, you just fight random people who may or may not have a ‘corrupted’ pokémon for you to rescue. So you have to kind of assemble your team out of this hodgepodge of creatures that you rescue, which is kind of OK. Except that you can’t really use them right away. See, when you get the pokémon, they don’t know any worthwhile moves and they won’t gain any experience and no experience = they don’t get any stronger. So what you end up doing is catching a pokémon from a trainer, then use it in battles, but it can’t really do anything. Then, after it wins so many fights, then you can use it to its fullest. But the thing is, it takes quite a while for them to get to that point, and there are lots of the little buggers to catch.

What all that means is that you’re going to spend a lot of time collecting your ‘corrupted’ pokémon and making them fight so that you can purify them so you can assemble your crackerjack team. But that’s ridiculously tedious, and it was something that I could only do for so long before I gave up on the game. According to the strategy guide that I would eventually get, that was about halfway through the thing, but I’ve tried, and I just don’t have the energy to get back into it… And I probably won’t for a while to come.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Friday, July 4th, 2008

The original Super Smash Bros. game was pretty fun and ended up getting a lot of play at my house. So when I heard that a new game in the series was coming out, I was pretty jazzed.

The new Smash Bros. game takes the premise set forth in the original game and just kind of polishes it up a little. There are more moves, more stages, more crap to pick up, and way more characters. After unlocking all the characters you have almost twice as many as in the prior game, representing a slightly wider cross-section of Nintendo’s history.

Oh, and some of the gameplay mechanics have been tweaked a little bit, but not in any way that most folks are going to care about. All you really need to know is that this game is just an excuse to have Nintendo characters beat each other senseless while they try to knock each other out of the arena.

Also introduced in this game were ‘trophies’. Which are little models of characters from just about every corner of the Nintendo universe. There are hundreds of the things, and they could pop up pretty well anywhere. So you have this meta-game of trophy collection to do while you’re engaged in the main game of pummeling characters senseless.

And the pummeling each other senseless really shines as a multiplayer game. It’s super-easy to pick up and just play, but actually deep enough that you can spend a lot of time plumbing its depths to learn the intricacies of combat. I never really made it past ‘passably mediocre’ at this game, even though I’ve invested over a hundred hours into the thing so far. But I’m not complaining or anything. I had at least as much fun reveling in the Nintendo nostalgia as I did actually playing the game. So it’s win-win, really.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

Friday, June 13th, 2008

I just kind of have to wonder about the world in the Zelda universe. From what I’ve played the landscape is literally stuffed to the gills with dungeons full of monsters and treasures. It’s really kind of a mystery to me how Link manages to live in that world before your game starts without tripping over enough items to arm him to the teeth.

Like the Four Sword. Link has to go find it to vanquish the latest non-Ganon threat to the land, some joker named Vaati. But the when Link finds the thing (it’s not hidden very well) and yanks it out of its pedestal it splits him into four Links, and they all have to work together to solve all the puzzles.

You might remember that the GameCube has four controller ports, and that in each port you can plug in a cable to connect up a Game Boy Advance to use as a controller. And getting four people, each with their own Game Boy is the ideal way to play.

The game takes place in a world that looks a lot like the world in the Link to the Past but with a few tweaks to take advantage of the ‘Cube’s hardware. But, when you go underground into the various tunnels and dungeons the action goes into your Game Boy. Which, for some reason I thought was completely awesome.

Throughout your adventuring you have to both work with and compete with up to three of your buddies to solve the puzzles and to collect ‘force gems’. Force gems don’t really do much other than let you finish the stage and buy some continues, but the Link that collects the most wins the level. Which, really doesn’t do much… except for giving the player who got it bragging rights. And I really like to have bragging rights. Of course, you could play this game with one player, control all the Links, and have the GBA screen pop up on your TV when you go into some cave, but that’s not nearly as much fun.

I played this game one time with three other people, and had an absolute load of fun playing it. I didn’t really find anything too tough about it, but I just really liked the ‘everyone has to work together while engaging in friendly competition’ aspect to it. But the guy that owned the game decided to take it back with him when he went home to the next state.


So I’d actually kind of forget about for a couple of years until I was at my local Gamestop and saw that they had the package (complete with link cable) for $20. Of course, by that time most of the folks that I knew with GameBoys had traded them in for the new-fangled DS units, so I couldn’t really round up four people at the same time to play this game with me.

But what I did do was charge up my GBA, hooked up the link cable, and dove into this game with both feet. I had expected the game to take maybe 5 or so hours to complete, to be on par with the Super NES offering (you know, since they looked similar). But I instead managed to lose over a dozen into the thing. And that was actually pretty awesome. Instead of occupying one weekend, it took two!

Now I just need to play it again with the full compliment of equipment.

Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

For a real long time I never knew that Joust was an arcade game. I just figured that it was some game made specifically for the Atari 2600, since it seemed to fit in with them all so well. Well, that, and the fact that my local arcades never got in very many of what you might call classics.

But not only was Joust an arcade game, but it had a sequel. A sequel that’s a whole lot the same with a few minor differences.

You still have your mount and still have to fly around a mysterious landscape with mysterious floating rocks and have to mysteriously stomp on your mysterious opponents to mysteriously encase them in eggs that you have to then collect. That’s pretty much the same as the old game, but where this game differs is: your mount can transform and the battlefield scrolls upward as you progress.

Joust 2

Transforming your mount is really the main difference in this version. At any time you can transform your lithe flying ostrich into a lumbering clumsy flying Pegasus. The main difference is that the Pegasus is far less nimble but falls like a rock, injecting a little bit of strategy into the game. The other big difference, the scrolling screen, only comes into play when you proceed far enough, then the screen scrolls a little bit and reconfigures itself to make things a little tougher, but it’s nothing groundbreaking.

I actually probably wouldn’t have even played this game or even knew of its existence if I didn’t have some weird obsession with playing old arcade games and decided to pick up the odd collection on occasion. Of course, I didn’t get this particular collection for this game, I got it for a couple of the others. But that doesn’t mean that this game, filler as it is, wasn’t good. It was OK, and I’m a more well-rounded player for playing it… but given the choice, I’d prefer to play something else.

Pac-Man Vs.

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

One day a friend of mine decided that he needed to buy Pac-Man World 2, which is itself pretty uneventful, but that game came with a bonus mini-game called Pac-Man Vs, and that is actually kind of interesting.

Pac-Man Vs is a little weird, but the gist is you take control of Pac-Man or one of three ghosts and have to try and get some points. The first one to get to the threshold wins! But here’s the thing. The guy playing as Pac-Man has to use a Game Boy connected to the Game Cube via its connector cable. The three guys controlling the ghosts use the Game Cube controllers and look at the screen which shows a blown up maze with just the immediate area around them visible. Pac-Man has to try to eat the dots, the fruits, the power pellets, and the ghosts if they’re blue. Nothing too far out of the ordinary.

Now the guys that control the ghosts can also eat the fruits, and if they do their field of vision slightly increases. And if they manage to eat the Pac himself then the person that does the deed and the guy playing Pac-Man swap controllers and the game continues.

The game is actually a whole lot of fun. If you’re playing Pac-Man you have to try and outwit your friends and get the score. If you’re the ghosts, you have to simultaneously work with them to trap Pac-Man and then backstab them all to be the one that does the yellow fool in. Then the Pac-Man player has to quickly form a shaky alliance with the other ghost players to get revenge on the fourth person.

Now, try to tell me how that’s not fun. Plus, I understand that this game came with a reasonably good adventure game for free, too.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

At some point before the GameCube came out there was a promotional video that showed some stuff that the system would be capable of doing. One of the scenes in the video showed a fight between Link and Ganon from the Legend of Zelda series. It looked pretty good for a demo.

Then, when rumblings of a new Zelda game being in development surfaced, lots of folks (me included) just kind of assumed that the super-awesome scene that we saw in the demo movie is going to be what the final game would look at. Turns out that we were all kind of wrong. Kind of very wrong.

The game, it turns out, was going to be cel-shaded, and what that meant was that everything in the game was going to look like a cartoon, and what that meant is that a lot of folks were completely thrown for a loop. In fact, the visual look of the game is really polarizing to fans of the series. I kind of got the impression that a lot of people thought they were ‘lied to’ when they saw that the game that they were getting wasn’t going to be the game they thought they were getting. But, I didn’t really mind too much.

I knew the game was going to be, beyond anything else, a Zelda game, and they hadn’t really let me down up to that point. And the graphics, I gave them a fair chance, and they did a pretty good job. The game looks good, cel-shaded or no.

The game takes place sometime after the events in Ocarina of Time, and somehow the world has become flooded. One day Link’s sister gets kidnapped by a big bird and Link has to go rescue her, and then save the world (natch).

Really, though, what you do is run to the bottom of a dungeon, collect the treasure inside, then try and find the next dungeon to do the same thing, but here’s the thing. The world is flooded completely, and all that’s left is a bunch of islands, which were mountaintops. The world is absolutely huge, and the islands are not. But you have to use your little skiff and sail around until you find the right island.

But that’s not all!

Late in thegame you have to find these shards of the Triforce. The problem is that they are literally hidden everywhere. You do get maps telling you the vicinities you have to search in, so you get to do a ton of sailing and a lot of plumbing the depths of the ocean. Kind of tedious, I’ll grant you that.

But the rest of the game was really good. My metric being that the game felt really short. Other than the sailing there was nothing about this game I didn’t like. Except for maybe the sidequest where you are tasked with taking pictures of enemies in the game to create statues. But, since that was optional, we won’t count that. I’d even go so far as to say that I liked this game better than the Wii offering.

Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour

Friday, May 16th, 2008

As a rule, I don’t like much golf outside of the miniature kind, and even that I can only take in smallish doses. As boring as it is, though, it’s slightly less boring to play… unless you’re talking about video game golf, then it’s slightly more boring to play, somehow. I suspect that because in Actual Golf(tm) if you want to thwack the ball harder, you swing the club faster, but in most versions of Fake Pretend Video Game Golf(tm) you just tap a button to start your swing and tap the same button to stop your swing, and if you’ve timed it just so, you don’t hit the ball out of bounds.

So I usually stay pretty far away from most video golf games. Until I went to my local Toys ‘R’ Us one day. There they had a kiosk set up with the (then) latest Mario Golf on it, and since there were no little kids in my way, I decided to give it a shot. After what felt like ten minutes my arms cramped up, my neck became sore, and I had played the front nine holes on a course. It turned out that far more than ten minutes had passed, if my joints could be believed, and if I lose a big tract of time like that to a demo copy, just imagine what would happen if I brought it home.

And that’s what I did.

The game does play a lot like every other golf video game that I’ve ever played. Pick your club, and then press the ‘A’ button with proper timing to hit the ball. The better your timing is, the better you hit the ball. The system isn’t based in reality so much as it is based on there not being a really good way to simulate swinging a golf club without actually swinging something that resembles a golf club. But the system works well enough for this game.

But when I got a few rounds under my belt, I was a little disappointed. Like a lot of games, you don’t get all the goodies all at once, you have to earn them. You have to earn the ability to play as the different characters, and on the various awesome courses. The commercials showed you playing on fanciful Mario-themed courses, with Chain Chomps in the sand traps, and courses in the treetops, and that kind of thing. But you start out with some generic plain grass number that’s just… well, plain. I even unlocked two or three courses, which got a little harder, but all seemed kind of ‘blah’ to me, maybe the cool stuff comes in toward the end, I don’t know.

So I kind of gave up on the game after I couldn’t unlock anything else. I couldn’t unlock anything else because I had some troubles finishing the tournaments in a position higher than last, and that happened because my timing and judgment of simulated 3D space has apparently become highly suspect in recent memory for some reason.

The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

I’m actually in kind of a unique position. The first Zelda game that I ever played was actually the second game in the series, The Adventure of Link. Maybe it’s because of that that my experience wasn’t clouded by fond memories of playing the first game in the series. But I actually liked it quite a bit. A few years later, when I got my first Internet access, I would quickly discover that a lot of folks consider this game to be the red-headed stepchild of the series for some reason.

The game is a direct sequel to the first Legend of Zelda game, which is actually a rarity for the series. Link has to revive Zelda from her mysterious slumber by traveling the land and sticking jewels into statues that are in castles hidden all over the landscape. Oh, and stopping Ganon from being resurrected while you’re at it.

But the game breaks with some of the mechanics from the first game, most of them are pretty negligible, but there are two that stand out: the side-scrolling adventure mode and the experience point system.

The original Zelda game was top-down only. We’ll go in depth with it another day, but basically everything happened on a giant grid that you had to explore. In this game the overworld is pretty huge, but it looks more like a map than anything else. When you walk along anything that’s not a path these shadowy things appear. Touch one of them and you’re whisked away to what amounts to a sidescrolling platform game where you do your fighting.

Similarly, the castles, towns, and dungeons are all presented in this way. They’re pretty much the same as the ones in the previous game except laid out in the opposite dimension. And all that really means is that you have to enemies being higher or lower than your sword (dimensions are fun!) and there are some places where Link will have to jump (*gasp!*). This, I don’t have a problem with.

The other big change is the experience point system, which hasn’t made an appearance in any other game in the series (that I know about). But, essentially, every time you kill an enemy you get a certain number of points based on how tough the monster is. Get a certain number of points and you can increase an attribute (attack power, life, or magic) which just gives you slightly more and makes you a bit stronger. This is a little bit different from the old game where you just found better stuff, and didn’t have discrete levels. But, since I hadn’t played that game, I didn’t have a problem with this either.

Towns were also added in, which, looking back, was pretty nice. The first game had Link as the only person in the world, besides the old men that lived in caves. This made the game actually feel like there were more people in the world that might be affected by the story. I don’t know if anyone really disliked the towns, but I thought they were appropriate.

I played this game a whole lot when I first got my hands on it. I loved being able to walk around on the giant map screen and then to zoom down the extreme closeup of the action stages. Even when I managed to jump directly into pits instead of over them about half the time. I reveled in finding the hidden secrets and figuring out how to advance the game. This was pre-internet and pre-strategy guide, so I wandered around the countryside for ages trying to figure out where the town was hidden in the forest, or how to make the river monster move out of the way, or why I would lose life when I was in a certain area even though nothing was there. Each time I did it, I felt like I was on top of the world for a few picoseconds, until the next head-scratcher.

I did finally, finally make it to the end of this game after months upon months of playing it. But I was only able to beat the thing one time. One time I was able to take my paltry allotment of lives and brave the labyrinthine final castle. One time I was able to thwart the evil within, defeat my own shadow, save the princess, and win the day.

And I’m going to cling to that one time for the rest of my days. It might be my epitaph: “This guy, he beat Zelda 2 that one time”.

Zelda Gravestone - MS Paint Style

Super Mario Sunshine

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

I guess I was kind of spoiled by the games in the Super Mario series. All of them I’d played up until Sunshine were really good. So I was pretty jazzed to finally get a new game in the series after so many years after Super Mario 64 came out.

Once I finally got to play it, though, I was actually pretty disappointed.

Mario games, and especially Super Mario 64 establish that Mario is an acrobat. In 64 he had the ability to run, jump, backflip, punch, kick, and stomp his way through his adventure. In this game, though, he’s been framed for ugly-ing up an island by painting some goop everywhere. So he has to use the conveniently-available talking backpack/water pump to clean up the mess.

I guess the backpack is real heavy because Mario completely forgot most of his moves that he learned in his previous 3D adventure. He can’t punch or kick things any more. He has to either stomp on their heads and or spray them with a not very powerful stream of water, which only annoys them slightly.

Don’t think that Mario becoming impotent in his Koopa dispatching ways is all there is to be annoyed about in this game, we’ve only just gotten started!

You end up using the backpack to enhance jumps by shooting the streams straight down, and it becomes pretty important to your movement. Unfortunately, there are stages where the backpack is stripped from you and you have to go through a stage using only Mario’s slightly unnatural acrobatic skills. There are some enemies in these stages, and they can only be defeated by stomping on their heads. You try to punch and kick them out of the way and Mario just kind of stamps his feet like he really wants to do something, but just can’t. And the thing is, these are the most fun parts of the whole game. They feel like an actual Mario game instead of the rest of the game.

The other big problem that I had was pretty much a deal-breaker for me. The camera in this game is just about the worst camera that I’ve ever had the misfortune of using. Most of the time it’s OK, but if you jump (and really, how often does Mario do that?) the camera pivots upward instead of panning upward. Which looks fine in screenshots and the like, but is so impractical that the game is nigh-unplayable. See, the game routinely has you jumping from floating platform to floating platform several hundred feet above ground level. It’s kind of important to me that when I’m jumping from one platform to the next that I can see where I’m going to land. Without that, I end up misjudging my landing and falling to my doom. Don’t believe me? Go out to your favorite sidewalk and try to jump in the center of each of five contiguous sections while looking straight up in the air. Once you fail, you’ll begin to feel my frustration. You can kind of see what I’m talking about at about 1:20 in the following clip:

And if all that weren’t bad enough, I encountered what I consider to be a pretty big bug. See, you need 70 ‘Shine Sprites’ to open the way to the last encounter. I had 70, but the way was still locked. Even though I had unmasked the evil villain and he told me where to find him. In each stage of the game you have a little ’showdown’ kind of thing with him. I had somehow managed to collect enough sprites to open to open the way to the last boss and he ran away to his not-very-secret hideout. But, there was one stage where I had yet to have the little showdown thing. So I had to figure out which stage I hadn’t played enough to get to that point, go fight him, and then go to the final showdown.


You also get to ride Yoshis in this game, like you could in Super Mario World, but unlike the Yoshis in Super Mario World, they’re just about worthless. The main problem with them, other than the unnatural way they spew a near-unending fountain of ‘juice’ on command, is that on an island, surrounded by water, with canals full of water, and boats that travel on water, your Yoshis literally dissolve when they touch water. So any usefulness they had is immediately negated by the fact that they’re completely and easily destructible by one of the most common substances on the planet.

And don’t even get me started on the boats, made out of mud (which also dissolves in water, albeit more slowly), which you have to steer by shooting jets of water out of the back. Never mind that this is what oars were invented for, but since the boat dissolves and is floating in either electrified water or freaking lava, you only have one chance, maybe two, to master a ridiculously obtuse method to control a boat before you face your doom.

Even with these problems, the game wasn’t terrible. It was passably good, but unlike Super Mario 64 where I felt compelled to explore every nook and cranny of the game world to unearth its secrets, after this game, I felt no such compulsion. In fact, after doing the bare minimum to complete it, I shelved this game and haven’t looked back to it since. I’m still pretty uncertain how it ranked so highly by all the ‘professional reviewers‘, even though in my experience the game was just barely above mediocre. In fact, I don’t remember any of those guys having the problems that I did, or if they did they didn’t mention it in their reviews.

I think it was about that point where I began to distrust professional game reviews almost entirely. And, no, user reviews are no better.

Mega Man Anniversary Collection

Monday, March 17th, 2008

I had thought about trying to stretch each of the Mega Man games in the series into complete articles, but they’re all nearly exactly the same. Not that that’s a bad thing. In fact, the games were quite good, with just little enhancements. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Mega Man games are about two scientists. They work together to build a series of robots to do certain tasks. Cutting trees, setting fire to things, blowing things up, that kind of thing. One of the scientists, as it happens, is all evil and steals most of the robots, reprograms them, and tries to take over the city or the world or whatever. The only robots he left behind were a housecleaning robot and a tool robot. The tool robot wants to smite the evil scientist, so the good scientists retrofits him to be able to go commit robot genocide.

Mega Man, the tool robot, has the interesting ability to copy the abilities of the robots he defeats. This is pretty handy because each of the robots has a special ability that one of the other robots is weak to. But! You don’t know which is which, and you don’t have a prescribed order to fight them in, so you have to guess.

This actually works out pretty well, it means that you can experiment and try to defeat the robot masters in whatever order you want to try to find out the optimal path to victory… or just which ones you like the best.

So, I can’t really stretch the games into eight articles. They’d go something like this:

Mega Man 2: Just like Mega Man, but you have platforms you can ride.

Mega Man 3: Just like Mega Man 2, but you have a robot dog to help you.

Mega Man 4: Just like Mega Man 3, but you have the ability to charge up your shots, and can make balloons to jump on.

and so on.

I had a lot of fun playing each of these games growing up, so it was pretty awesome to be able to finally get them all in a convenient form that didn’t require me to do some kind of arcane ritual to get my aging NES to work.

It’s also kind of nice how they put one of my favorite arcade games and its sequel in with the package. And I’d probably have paid the price of admission for that alone. Or just the series compilation, especially since each of the games in the series in the wild routinely goes for well over $30 for whatever reason.

And then there’s the bonus stuff, like interviews and remixes and the kind of thing you’d find on a DVD release of some movie. It’s just stuffed full of goodies that makes the whole package completely awesome. It’s easily one of the best purchases I’ve made.