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2/27/2011

F1 2010 First Career Victory!

I didn't write anything during the weekend because I spent every night doing stuff with my group of friends but now its Sunday night and finally have time to sit down and post an update of what I did over the weekend.

The most important thing was that I won my first career race in F1 2010. I'm still driving for Lotus so this is actually a huge achievement. It was done in Istanbul (amazing track) after I finished 11th in Pole Position. I got to admit that the weather conditions helped me out a lot; I raced in light rain so every car was driving really carefully. About halfway through the second lap I was already 3rd with Button and Hamilton in front of me. I had several opportunities to overtake them but since it was raining I didn't want to crash. I drove behind them until lap 6 and they made a mistake together and took the chance to overtake them. The rest of the race I drove in 1st place with both of them constantly chasing me. It was a great win and now it's Montreal's turn.

Regarding my Ocarina of Time run, I finished Dodongo's Cavern and Jabu Jabu's Belly and stopped there so I'm gonna go watch the scene with Ganondorf chasing Zelda and me taking the Ocarina of Time in a while. I might even finish the Forest Temple if I feel like it. I'm doing a 3-heart run but so far it's alright since I'm still in child Link's quest.

I also advanced a little in FF 4HOL last night. I'm currently in a very boring part with Aire and Brandt transformed into a cat and dog respectively trying to defeat a magician God. I really want the four party members to get together so I can take full advantage of the battle system. Speaking of Final Fantasy, at a friend's birthday party I met a guy who loves the series and had a great time talking about it with him. He agrees with me in several things like VIII being crap and X-2 being amazing. I'm going to stay in touch with him from now on because he also likes to play Blazblue and I'd like to learn a thing or two from him.

My 100% run of Epic Yarn is slowly advancing as well. I got the gold medal in several stages I missed and a lot of the items from the shops and story stages. I'm pretty sure this should be done by the end of next week (its still Sunday where I live). I don't know if I should attempt a 100% run of Other M or a Mirror Mode run of DKCR. Hell, I might do both.

I watched four more episodes of Queen's Blade. The series is good. It's keeping a good pace between the fights and the characters are great for the most part. The only thing I literally hate is a character named Cattleya who has /d/ material breasts, totally disgusting. I hope she doesn't become an important character because it's really ugly and lame. 

And to finish, I played a little Darkstalkers 3 and even if it's an old Capcom fighter, the characters on it are great for the most part. I'm obviously trying to learn Felicia and Morrigan at first but the shitty thing is that I don't have anyone to play it with. I will try to convince my friends to play this because it looks like it's really worth it even if we're like 10 years late.

2/24/2011

A new Ocarina of Time run

To celebrate Zelda's 25th anniversary I decided to play through Ocarina of Time again on the Gamecube disc that also contains Master Quest. A friend asked me which game I was going to play for the date and I didn't have anything planned but said "why not¿". I'm playing the normal version of the game to go through it faster so it doesn't interfere with my other games (which I really don't think will happen). 

I'm playing it on the Wii on my Sony Bravia TV so I turned the progressive scan on and the game looks very good. I went through the Deku Tree with no problems other than I forgot to choose L targeting as "hold". I played my entire life with the targeting in hold so I was a little confused at first. Then I went to Hyrule's Town Market and got the egg from Malon to wake Talon up and sneak to where Princess Zelda was. She told me about her prophecy and then Impa taught me Zelda's Lullaby. 

It's incredible how this game aged so well. Of course there are a lot of things showing their age like the graphics and some of the objects but seriously, when OoT is called one of the best games of all time, they're definitely not lying. If I finish the game in a week or less I'd also like to go through Majora's Mask which I got on the Virtual Console on Christmas, this is a great opportunity to play our Zelda games.

Special thanks to Insp. Chin!

A few days ago I got a follow on twitter (@Mike_Nieto) from a community manager from Tecmo-Koei known as Insp. Chin, I showed him the blog and he liked it a lot so he decided to put a link on his (which you can visit in a link in the right side of the blog). He works a lot on making the gaming community know about the company's games and thanks to his tweets and articles I'm actually getting really interested in several of Koei's games I never played before. This post is to thank him and hope that with his help I'll keep getting more and more readers and feedback to make my articles in a better way. 



Thank you very much Insp and cheers!

2/23/2011

Queen's Blade impressions

I've been watching this anime series called Queen's Blade for the last five days (one episode per day) and though the series' beginning was pretty lame, the following episodes got much better. It's an ecchi-fantasy series about a girl from a royal family named Reina who decides to leave her castle to travel the world while she participates in a tournament to decide the most powerful and beautiful woman to be the queen of the kingdom. 

The series takes the ecchi stuff very seriously to the point that so far, I haven't seen any male characters (other than a shadowy figure of the protagonist father) and all the girls are big breasted and wear little to no-clothes. But unlike another series I had the misfortune of watching about 4 years ago called Ikkitoussen, QB seems to actually have a plot. All the characters so far have an interesting back-story which makes the series a bit interesting even if you don't care about the chicks and the fights so far have been pretty cool. They are nothing like Dragon Ball but they've been entertaining.

Also, it has humor here and there. Reina's sister is a lesbian princess who keeps chasing her around making awkward moments between the two. There's also an Egyptian girl called Menace who carries a talking staff around that is the spirit of a perverted cat who always says funny stuff about the girls. But I've only seen five episodes of it and I think it has 24 so I'll just take my time to watch it and will keep posting my opinions on it.

FF: The 4 Heroes of Light progress & 3DS hype

I have been playing FF: 4HOL for the last days and the game is very good. As I mentioned before, the game is very hard at times and the first few hours are spent with the party separated and the plot like coming together very slowly, still, it’s a great JRPG for the DS. I like it much more than Dragon Quest IX which I unfortunately had to stop playing (but will go back to it eventually). I'm currently in a town named Arbor using a princess called Aire that got transformed into a cat and she's trying to save the main protagonist: Brandt. She just met a talking mouse in an underground dungeon and together will try to get a magical staff to help the boy. Pretty cool stuff.


In other great news, I preordered my copy of Dead or Alive Dimensions from Amazon. I'll have to pay 39.99 dollars for it which is the full retail price for the 3DS games. I'm used to buying my new consoles with two games so I'll have to decide on a second one, right now I'm between Madden and Pilotwings but want to see footage for Samurai Warriors to see what is it about.

I watched the trailers for Dimensions today again and literally can't contain my hype for it. I pay a lot of attention to the details in DOA games and forgot I saw Kokoro wearing her kimono from the DOA4 promos. I remember we all bitched about her not wearing her kimono on the Xbox 360 game and Itagaki said it was because she would seem confusing to use wearing that. Bullshit, thank god we'll now be able to use her with that.

I want to try and play it with new characters I didn't use much before, something like Tina and Eliot would be nice but I'm not sure. If the gameplay is like DOA4's then chances are I'll just go with Helena and Hayabusa again. I'm gonna do everything in my power to become as good in that game as possible.

Happy Birthday Legend of Zelda

In these days, the gaming industry will be celebrating Zelda's 25th anniversary, just like we already did with Mario in Christmas. As a great fan of the series I'm noticing a great lack of articles and cover for this. The 25th birthday of Zelda should be motive for Nintendo to release new products, give us info on Skyward Sword and the media to be covering pretty much everything that has happened in the series since the NES game came out. But anyways, I will share some of my experiences with the series.

I was actually one of the few gamers in my country that actually owned and played the first Zelda. I was only a little kid, about 5 or 6 years old so as you can expect, my progress in the game was... not good, to put it in pretty words. Still, I liked the game a lot. I remember traveling around Hyrule and trying to finish the dungeons I came across but most of the times I just failed miserably. To this date I've never beaten this game and to be honest, I don't think I'll ever do it because even if Zelda is great and all we have to admit that LoZ did not age well.

I never got Adventure of Link. In fact, I found out about its existence in the N64 era. But what I did own was Link to the Past, the SNES title. As I mentioned in my "Gaming and me" article, it was the game that came bundled with my SNES. Just like with LoZ, I was just a little kid so I had a really hard time just getting out of Hyrule Castle, until a friend helped me out. LttP is probably one of the most memorable games in my life. Spending hours messing with the mirror to see what happened was of the best experiences in my childhood and I always loved just going to the game to beat Ganon again and again because I loved the credit's music (and we didn't have music downloads on the internet at the time).

But my real love for the series as a whole started with Ocarina of Time which I got about six or seven months after its release and Majora's Mask which I managed to get on release date because there was a store that somehow got it at the US launch date over here. I got to admit that I spent MUCH more time on OoT. There were a lot of rumors running around the internet when the message boards started about the Triforce being a hidden item in the game. I remember the rumors and ways to get it were so diverse that we ended up doing completely stupid things in the game like throwing bombs at the center of the lava beneath Ganon's Castle or trying to beat insane high scores on the Market's minigames. But well, even if the Triforce was never in the game, I had tons of fun doing all that stuff.

I'm definitely not lying when I say I finished Ocarina of Time about 25-30 times. I literally memorized the lines the NPCs said and played through the game in several crazy ways, like 3-heart runs, no-sword and no-shield runs, etc. But even if I did all these stuff in OoT, I have to say that Majora's Mask is my favorite in the series. The obscure atmosphere, weird plot, great environments and mask transformations just made me fall in love with that game. I only finished MM about five times, including a run I did about three years ago and I love discussing with fellow Zelda gamers my reasons why I think MM is slightly superior to OoT.

I was one of the people who went all "WTF¿" when I saw Wind Waker for the first time because I thought the first Zelda game for the Gamecube was gonna be like the one the famous tech demo showed. So I didn't pay much attention to it, in fact, I was actually a little pissed off at Nintendo for transforming my favorite gaming series (at the time) into a kid's cartoon. But around a year after the game came out, I started reading reviews for Tales of Symphonia and that game made me buy a Gamecube. Since I'm used to buy my consoles with two games and I didn't know what else to get, I bought Wind Waker. 

While it’s nowhere near as epic and amazing as Ocarina and Majora, I loved WW. Especially the environments and the feeling that the ocean I was traveling around was above the land I walked around so many times in OoT. I remember even drawing maps to see if the Hyrule in WW was the same as the one in OoT, pretty crazy if you ask me. But at the time I was already playing Dead or Alive 3 and Halo (Not sure about Ninja Gaiden) so I didn't develop an obsession. 

After the Xbox 360 came out I remember reading tons of info about the differences between the GC and Wii versions of Twilight Princess. After I learned the Wii version was a mirror world of the real game with a right-handed Link I decided to just buy the GC version which I didn't like very much. Nintendo kind of promised us this would be the Zelda game to dethrone Ocarina and Majora but it was even worse than WW. Don't get me wrong, TP is a great Zelda game but it just doesn't meet the standards the N64 entries started. The game tries way too hard to be like OoT and that ended up in a game that doesn't have a good identity. The three Zelda games before it made great innovations to the formula but TP was just more of the same and resulted in being a disappointment.

I feel like it's a bit unfair to leave the portable Zelda games out but the truth is that I haven't played many of them. I only finished Oracle of Ages (which I loved at the time but don't remember much about it) and Phantom Hourglass which I played recently and liked it a lot. I own them all but none of them is as epic as the console ones, still, they deserve a lot of respect and I recommend them a lot.

Right now I'm waiting for Skyward Sword just like millions of gamers out there and though I really don't expect much, I will buy it as soon as it comes out and play it a lot. I can feel from the trailer that it's not gonna recreate the impression the N64 games did because those games set the standards for the series way too high (just like VII and X made with Final Fantasy) so we have no other choice but to trust Nintendo and hope they will give us another great Zelda game to celebrate 25 amazing years of traveling around Hyrule.

2/22/2011

Virtua Fighter should get more respect

I'm a great fan of fighting games and my favorite series in the genre is Dead or Alive. I used to play a lot of Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct in the SNES and early-N64 era and I've tried almost all the series out there, from Tekken and Street Fighter to Guilty Gear and King of Fighters. A lot of them are very good but just don't appeal to me (which is the current case with MvC3) and there are others that I just hate for my own reasons (Street Fighter and Tekken) but there's one series which I've always seen as the most technically advanced and hard to master since I played its fourth entry in the PS2: That's Virtua Fighter.

The SEGA made franchise has always been in the shadow even though every time a new game comes out the reviewers love them and give excellent reviews. You could say the series is not taken seriously because the first three entries only came out on Sega consoles but VF4 came out on the PS2 and VF5 is available almost for free on the PS3 and 360 and yet, nobody has ever played this series. 

VF is just excellent, it's the game that inspired DOA as far as I'm concerned and out of all the games in the genre out there, it's the hardest one to master while being easy to get into, just like DOA. The difference I see between the two (and let's include Soul Calibur to the formula) is that VF only focused on creating a near-perfect gameplay system while its characters are not as charismatic as the ones in other series. Of course there are exceptions like Akira (the main "protagonist") and to me and almost everyone I know who plays fighting games, one of the most important aspects in the genre is the charisma of the character. As an example I always use Gen Fu, the old dude from Dead or Alive, he's just amazing gameplay-wise and usually shares a spot in the top of the tier lists with the ninjas yet, almost nobody uses him because he is "the old ugly man" in a game full of insanely beautiful girls.


The charisma and looks of the characters in something I find funny in Soul Calibur. There are four games in the series and as new titles get released you can notice how the guys went from bad-ass medieval fighters to yaoi anime protagonists and the girls have less clothes and bigger breasts in every new game. Namco did a good job in transforming their fighters and that is the main reason why I think the series is doing good. In the other hand, DOA has always used the hot-girls formula to draw attention but it can defend itself with one of the most advanced fighting systems out there once the player falls into the trap of "let's play with this hot schoolgirl". Now, I like Soul Calibur but it's nowhere near as good as DOA.

For this reason is that I believe that Sega should have the guts to start working on VF6, give a few changes to their characters and tweak it's fighting system if this can ever be done because even though a new DOA is coming out next month I feel scared that with games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Blazblue and Street Fighter we're gonna be stuck again in an era of 2D lame fighters. Sega, Team Ninja and Namco have the opportunity to bring the franchise back to where it belongs.

2/20/2011

REVIEW: Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)



Kirby's Epic Yarn is probably the most surprising game on the Nintendo Wii. It’s a 2D classic platformer developed by HAL Laboratory and Good Feel and it features the iconic pink mascot. For his entire existence, Kirby platformers have been about the little guy running around levels sucking up enemies and stealing their abilities in a very childish and cute yet, incredibly great manner. This time, the formula makes a sudden and weird change and transforms everything into yarn to create a game that is truly artistic and completely beautiful.

In Epic Yarn, our hero will lose his key ability to suck up enemies and instead is gonna use his body made of yarn to transform into different objects like a car, fish, rocket, UFO, etc to go around the levels. His most common ability now is to launch a yarn thread to roll enemies into a ball of yarn and use it to throw it around. So as you can see, Kirby will keep using the enemies and environments to his advantage but now in a totally different way. 

Everything starts with Kirby walking around the fields of Dream Land feeling hungry like usual. He sees a tomato (his favorite food) and decides to suck it up. But it belonged to a Magician named Yin-Yarn who has the power to transform everything into that cloth. By using a magic sock, Yin-Yarn sucks Kirby up and he ends up in a weird land called Patch Land. In there, Kirby will meet a prince named Fluff and together they will try to restore order to that land and defeat Yin-Yarn.

The game is simply beautiful, a work of art in the gaming industry. It doesn't feature any 3D environments or high-definition graphics like the games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 but the developers managed to create something visually spectacular using only the Wii's power. Every level has a different theme represented with thousands of objects made of yarn and cloths, example: Grass Land will be full of stages featuring plants, flowers, wind and things with nature, Treat Land is filled with stages with toys moving around, cakes and other sweet foods and vehicles that Kirby needs to use to move around, while Space Land has a lot of stages with futuristic buildings made of yarn and space-like things like ships, meteor rains and stars decorating them.

Every object in the game is made of yarn or other cloths like cotton and silk and you can interact in some way with most them. Kirby can go through a door in a wall and travel behind the yarn, unzip a piece of a wall or pull an object to reveal hidden platforms or change something using one or more of his transformations. The simple gameplay mechanics allow the player to do several things with the levels with simple button presses.

One of the most incredible aspects in the game is the music and sound effects. The soundtrack is very childish, like something you would listen to in a baby cartoon or toy but since this is a Kirby game, it fits perfectly and even for hardcore gamers used to deep music like the ones in Halo and Final Fantasy, the OST in Epic Yarn is even kind of magical. All the songs represent perfectly the kind of stage you're playing in so it will never feel awkward or out of place.

The sound effects are also great; they're really childish like the rest of the game and even sound very funny like Kirby's voice and the enemies like the common Waddle-Dees being rolled into a yarn ball. The sound of every object in the game gives a lot of life to the stages which is incredibly important given the visual style the developers used for the game. The characters don't have any voice acting but there's a good narrator telling the story between every level like the ones who tell child stories in TV programs. This felt very good because though it is very kiddy it feels perfectly and it’s beautiful.

            In terms of gameplay the game it's very simple; you play by using the Wiimote in horizontal position like in Metroid: Other M. You move Kirby with the D-pad, jump with  button #2 and attack enemies with a yarn thread by pressing button #1 in any direction. Besides this, Kirby has several transformations to go around sections of different stages, the instructions to control them are always given to you before starting the stage but they're usually no different than controlling the normal Kirby.

The game itself is built around different levels, each with around seven stages and a boss fight. Every time you play a stage you can collect some crystals called "beads" which have different values and can be used as currency in the game to buy objects to decorate your room in a town. The number of beads you collect at the end of the stage earns you bronze, silver and gold medals and this brings us to one of the criticized aspects of the game, if you fall to the abyss or are hit by an enemy all you do is lose some of your beads, no matter what, Kirby can't die which makes finishing the stages way too easy, even the bosses can't kill Kirby. But the game can be tricky because to unlock treasures and extra levels you are required to finish the stages with high-rank number of beads so that means that in most of them you have to travel around getting every crystal without getting hit at all.

Regarding the replay-value, Kirby's Epic Yarn is a very easy and fun game which can be played more than one time with no problems, it allows cooperative play in which one player controls Kirby and the other one plays as Prince Fluff, there's no difference between the characters but the mode can be really fun especially if you're aiming to unlock everything in the game. There are also several minigames you can play solo or in co-op like hide-and-seek in which you go to a stage and have to find some characters in some given time, and others which require you to kill a certain number of enemies or make a speed-run of a stage. All these minigames can be cool material for world-records in YouTube and most of them are very fun though not very challenging.

Kirby's Epic Yarn is a great addition to the 2D platformer collection available on the Wii and it's another proof that Nintendo does not need to create funny peripherals and avatars to sell good games. While the game shares the same genre with Donkey Kong Country Returns, it's very different because they're aimed at extremely different kinds of gamers. The game is really beautiful both visually and musically and the simple and easy gameplay can be perfectly enjoyed by any kind of gamer, even if they're used to the most common kinds of titles available in the consoles now days.


Pros:
-          Excellent visual and musical presentation
-          Simple and accessible, yet, extremely fun gameplay
-          Cool boss fights

Cons:
-          The difficulty is not challenging
-          Some of the extras are not worth unlocking


Graphics and Visuals…………9
Music and Sound Effects……..10
Gameplay…………………….9
Replay Value………………....8
Overall Score…………….…..9/10