Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Super Mario Brothers Wii

I admit that I am a Mario Fan through and through.

I remember the first time I played Super Mario Brothers. It was a Sunday. We were at my Mother's Uncle's House. My second cousin had the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) hooked up to a small color television in the basement (The Same Color Television Doubled as a monitor for a computer—Commodore 64 or something like that).

I watched a second cousin play through a few levels and I excitedly asked if I could try it out.

With the Atari 2600 as my primary prior experience in console gaming. I walked Forward and right into that first Goomba and died. Then I did it again. I was trying to use up on the directional pad to jump. So there I am on my last life when my cousin finally tells me how to jump. I fared a little better, but not great.

I've been hooked ever since. I probably bugged my parents about getting a Nintendo from that point on.

Dad relented once and rented one from Blockbuster. The new Shiny on the block at the time was Super Mario Brothers 2—and what a glorious game.

We finally got a Nintendo for Christmas, and Super Mario Brothers became a challenge to overcome. It was hard. Very Very Hard.

Playing video games is a very different affair these days. Back then there was no internet. If you were stuck, you were stuck until you figured it out. Cheat codes were passed among friends on pieces of paper and they originated from the one guy that had a subscription to Nintendo Power, or the inside of Cereal Boxes, or as a bonus from watching some cartoon on Saturday morning.

I remember the sheer thrill, when I hear from a friend of a friend about the Konami Code (I didn't know that's what it was called at the time) and how excited I was to take that pencil scrawled ripped piece of paper over to my friend's house to try it on Contra. Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A (select—for two players) Start. We passed Contra the first time that day, with the help of 30 extra lives.

Now that I have the Nintendo Wii, I've picked up every Mario Game I can get my hands on: Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario Brothers 2 (US and Japanese Versions), Super Mario Brothers 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario RPG (Shout-out to Natalie for that one), Super Mario Sunshine (Thanks to Nintendo for Backward Gamecube Compatibility), Super Mario Galaxy, Super Paper Mario.

I'm still lacking in the Mario Kart arena, and the Smash Brothers Arena.

So, it should come as no surprise that I picked up New Super Mario Brothers Wii.

New Super Mario Brothers Wii is in spirit just like every side scroll platform Mario game that came before. The last traditional side scroll Mario game that came out was New Super Mario Brothers in 2006, but that was a Nintendo DS game. I don't own a DS, but I borrowed one to play that game because prior to that the last traditional side scroll Mario game was Super Mario World in 1990 on Super Nintendo, a system I never owned. New Super Mario Brothers was FUN—VERY FUN, but playing on that little screen just isn't the same.

Over the years, I've become less of a solitary player—I enjoy the social interaction of gaming, which explains the proliferation of Music Rhythm Games in our home. Even though Super Mario has traditionally been mostly a single player game, it's more fun with friends. We would take turns passing the controller. You can make fun of each other when you fail and you can celebrate wildly skillful playing. 

New Super Mario Brothers adds true multi-player to the Mario equation. Up to Four players can compete or co-operate on screen at once. No longer constrained to passing the controller, or taking turns on screen as Mario and Luigi.

So far, I'm loving this game, it's completely new and yet it's completely familiar. I haven't played much, because I'm really craving the multi-player and haven't had a chance to try that out as of yet. What I have played has been fun in an old school meets new school kind of way. If you thought Firepower was fun—wait until you try Ice Power. If you thought the Tanooki suit and the Cape were great, wait till you try on the Propeller Suit. If you thought the Frog Suit was an Awesome Power up for Water Levels you're gonna love the Penguin in Ice Levels. Also—Yoshi.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Stars Are Right.

The Cthulhu Mythos is an interesting bit of Modern Horror Fiction that was born during the age of Pulp Fiction.

As I understand it, H.P. Lovecraft envisioned a world where we humans amount to nothing. In the Mythos he created a world where Elder Gods once ruled, but are now currently sleeping. Though they sleep, their minds reach out to prepare for their eventual return, they influence people who become cultists. These Cultists prepare the world for their return through horrific rituals. Those that attempt to learn about the Elder Gods and the World they ruled, are faced with the realization that man is nothing; merely ants in the grand scheme of things. This knowledge added to the understanding that the Elder Gods will soon return leads to a loss of sanity. The Elder gods Will Return—when the Stars are Right.

H.P. Lovecraft had close ties with other Pulp Fiction Contemporaries, and they too added to the Mythos—Including Robert E. Howard (Known Best for Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane)

The Stars are Right is a Card and Tile Game. The Tiles are Laid out in a grid pattern in the center of the table. You then play cards to arrange the star tiles to allow the activation of cards based on patterns of stars found in the grid. The Goal is to arrange the stars in patterns that allow the Summoning of various Cthulhu Mythos monsters each worth different point values. The player that reaches ten points first wins.

I liked this game. The ties to the Chulhu Mythos were very prominent (but not something you need to know to play). Summoning lesser creatures yields lower points, and help in the eventual summoning of the Elder Gods (worth more points) by allowing portions of the Star Patterns to be ignored.

The thing I can see some people not liking about this game, is that it is extremely difficult to plan ahead, because every one is changing the stars. This slows the game down as getting the stars arranged in such a manner as needed does require some thinking.

I want to play this again. Next time, I hope there aren't two screaming kids, and two yapping dogs. Then maybe I'll be able to think clearer and Summon the Great Cthulhu—when The Stars are Right.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Google Wave—Shameless Begging

I've been hearing all about this Google Wave thing.

I still can't seem to wrap my head around what exactly it is, and I want to check it out, but it's currently invitation only.

I figure someone Geeky that Reads My Blog could offer me one of their invites.

To prove exactly how shameless this begging is, I'm applying all my labels to this blog. From what I understand, Google Wave could apply in some way to all of them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Musical Rhythm Games

Musical Rhythm Games are  really popular at our house.

Essentially they are Karaoke games that everyone can play whether they can sing or not. The Guitar and Drums can be tricky, but they level well enough, so even players on the Easy Level can enjoy. When we purchased Guitar Hero 5 in the first month it was available, we became eligible for a free copy of Guitar Hero Van Halen. We also picked up Lego Rock Band and Band Hero.

Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero are essentially the same game with a different skin/style and different song selections. They are geared specifically for party play. You can hop in and out and change difficulty on the fly, and you can play with any combination of instruments—i.e. if you happen to have four drum sets, you can all play drums, and you can change instruments on the fly as well.

I played We Are the Champions and American Pie last night and it was a blast.

Guitar Hero Van Halen, isn't even out yet. Its release date is about a month from now. I'm not a big Van Halen fan, but If it's free, that's the price for me. I found that I recognized a lot more of the Van Halen Music than I thought I would, and enjoyed most of it. It has one Queen song in it, and I've been a little obsessed with the music of Queen lately—A very talented group. I remembered that in the Movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, that they were always trying to come up with a way to get Eddie Van Halen in the Band—now I understand why. There is some truly challenging stuff in this game due to the Amazing things he did with the real instrument. The Game feels like Guitar Hero III, as far a menus and game play, but updated to handle More Varieties of plastic toy instruments. It's challenging, and frankly I'm surprised at how much I've enjoyed playing it.

Now let's talk Lego Rock Band. When rumors of this game started to spread, a lot of people groaned and a lot of people cheered. Count me as one of those that cheered. The thing about Lego games I like are the Humor and the Family Friendly Nature. There is one problem though. The Wii version is Nerfed. The ability to download songs from the Rock Band Store has been completely removed. This feature was limited in the Xbox and Playstation 3 Versions—but it was limited in a way I found useful. Only songs marked as family friendly are available—which is perfect, I don't really need to be adding songs that are not family friendly. This was a feature I was really looking forward to, because there are a lot of songs in the Rock Band store that I would like to get.

The game is fun. Especially the Challenge levels. The animations going on in the background are amusing enough to distract you form your playing at times. So far the tasks we have completed used the Power of Rock! to Demolish a building, Scare Ghosts from a Mansion, and Fight off a Giant Octopus—amusing stuff indeed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Podcast Irregularity

So there's this podcast that I listen to, and I can't stand either of the hosts. They are a Husband–Wife duo. He is cold and emotionless, she is overly emotional (no, she doesn't cry—she gets a little too excited about things—i.e. ultimate fan-girl) and not in a charming way, in a slightly irritating way.

Yet I keep listening. Sixty-four episodes. Now, add to this that they have launched another podcast, which I intend to Listen to regularly.

What I do like about the podcast is the content. I'm generally very interested in the content and the people they interview—but when it gets to the "just be yourself on the mic" portions of the show, I just have to grit my teeth.

They remind me of those socially uncomfortable friends that you have. You know, the ones that are tolerable, but a little weird on their own. But now they're dating and every time either of them opens their mouth the room is full of awkward.

Now, their podcast has joined a pod-casting network—so now I get to hear them on other pod-casts that I previously enjoyed without them.

Also, in that same suite of pod-casts there is another show that has a show segment where the wives of the hosts give their view of things. I really like that pod-cast, but that segment drives me insane. There is this Guy vs. Girl thing that I've always hated. Men need to be men, women need to be women, and neither is complete without the other, and we need to just accept each other as is and stop it with the whole Men are better or women are better garbage—we each have our roles. What I've noticed is that the people that are always pushing the whole your side needs to stop thinking that my side is inferior attitude, seem to be the ones that think their side is superior and act very immature about the whole thing.

Oh look, a mini rant ended up in my observation of myself listening to a multitude of pod-casts wherein I find the hosts annoying.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Case of the Missing Players

This weeks campaign was supposed to be exciting. I had Six people R.S.V.P.—five of those were planing to attend. A sixth person had given me a maybe, and a seventh generally comes, but never reads his e-mail and as such, never gives an R.S.V.P.. Also, one of the five is a friend of mine from high school that lives out of state now, and was in town for business and family purposes.

I was excited to run a session that featured enough combat to keep every one satisfied.

Right before go time I got a message from the maybe man—he had a wedding reception that he had forgotten about and was obligated to attend. My wife had called the person that never reads his e-mail and he indicated that he would be over in a bit.

A little after go time, my friend that now lives out of state arrived. He was the first—which worked out well, since we had not yet created a character for him. So we took care of that, we talked a little about how the system works—and no one else had shown up. It was getting late—but people have shown up late in the past. I called though, because I like to know what's going on.

Three of the people that indicated that they were going to attend weren't answering their phones. About twenty minutes later my wife got them on the phone and they weren't coming. The person we called, who stated he would be over in a bit—never showed up.

Essentially, I invited my friend from out of state to some Zombie Hunting good times and everyone else that stated they would be there (except my wife) bailed. Which left me with two players—and the bare minimum I will run the game with is three.

We ended up just talking and catching up—which was nice, but I think we both would have liked catching up over the rotting corpses of the undead just as much.

I'm not sure what I learned from this session. 

Five seems to be the R.S.V.P. kiss of death. If five indicate they are coming, only one comes. That's what happened last time. There were two other sessions where five people played, but I think on both occasions only three people had indicated that they would attend.

The next session falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I'm not holding my breath in thinking that enough people will come to play. But, I am hoping that people will need a break from their crazy families and holiday shoppers—thus helping them to choose to blow off steam, by blowing up Zombies.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Google—It's a Mystery

I'm not sure why Google created this, but you should know it's out there.


You get what the person before you searched for.

I searched for "Gary Gygax" (The Late creator of Dungeons & Dragons) and got the Results for "if I eat a pinecone, will my farts smell like christmas?"

My observation is that it's easy enough to get inappropriate results from an innocent search—why invent a tool that increases the likelihood of such an occurrence?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chalk Dust Season

Does anyone else go through this?

Approximately twice a year—as the seasons change—I find myself having a difficult time breathing.

It's not that I'm not getting enough oxygen, it just feels and smells like the air around me is full of chalk dust.

It's happening to me right now. It's as if someone grabbed two chalk board erasers and banged them together and created a cloud of chalk dust around me. That's the only way I know to describe it.This happens on and off for a few weeks, and then it's back to breathing as normal.

Apparently Winter is Closing in.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Halloween Gaming—Not Terribly Spooky

So, after six weeks we finally played Savage Worlds again. Last Session was derailed when only two people showed up. The session before that was set aside for Beatles Rock Band and Guitar Hero 5.

This was a very Role Play session. The party was still in Flagstaff. Though P wasn't there I contended that his character had a Parrish and that he had acquired a bus for church purposes. One player, who hasn't been there for every session has a character that happens to be a surgeon (of the plastic variety)—this gave me an excuse to run the hospital portion of the story—which made it easier to get the group out of Flagstaff. Though they almost didn't take it (interestingly enough).

This was a difficult session for me to run—sort of. This campaign (as I've mentioned ad nauseam) is my first ride in the Game Master seat. I've found myself at times not confident in my own storytelling skills, and shaky in my ability to act as referee and make rulings with my limited understanding of the rules. Because, I know myself, I had a feeling this is how things would go. Which is why at the outset of this game, I didn't just start making a story up and allow my players to interact with it. This is why I'm running Zombie Run, rather than my own Zombie Scenario.

The benefit of running a scripted scenario, is that you don't have to take the time to create the world and characters and story—it's all there for you. Except when it isn't. This particular branch of the story was rather more sandboxy than previous story arcs. Since I'm not the story's creator—it's not a part of me.

Advice given to budding authors is to write what you know. If you write what you know, then when a new situation presents itself you instinctively know what is going to happen, because the places, characters, and situations are all a part of you.

The same goes for Storytelling through Game Mastering, if it's something you created—then it's going to be a part of you, and when new situations arise (as they always will—players will surprise you every time) you theoretically will know how to react.

So, this session presented me with the challenge of getting the characters to interact with a particular character. I tried to get them to go there last session—but there was no rhyme or reason to do so. This session however, there was a way to do so. Though I think, if this had been a story of my own creation I would have been more flexible last session and changed things to make it work differently. Sometimes when I'm in the thick of it—I forget to be flexible and forget I can change things to suit me.

Also, I find that I'm not descriptive enough. I need to use a palate of words to create mental visuals for my players, but I find that more often than I should, I just let the dice tell the story, which isn't that exciting.

Holiday Season is upon us, so there's probably going to have to be some schedule adjustment following the every two weeks rule lands a game on the week of Thanksgiving and the Week of Christmas. I'm willing to play those weeks, but understand if things just don't work out—Halloween almost fell through (humorous side note, two players were asleep on the couch the entire game—in spite of the Halloween Music playing on the Sound System quite loud at times...So a big thanks to Brandon and Tiffany for coming, it would have been Lame without you). I just hope this game doesn't die on the vine as a result—because it's written to end with a Bang!!