Monday, February 2, 2015

Peevish Player Picks A Pocketful of Portable Ponderings

I'm grateful to Jeremy Parish for the years I was a freelance contributor to the late, great 1UP, but nevertheless, I worry a little that it's made my writing style a bit too... formal. Back in the day, I was better known for stream of consciousness pieces that reflected my mood without any greater purpose... so let's revisit that golden age, shall we? Here now are some random thoughts that have been bouncing around my head as of late.

"Golden Sun! Golden Sun!" Er, sorry.
 Around this time last year I was bitten by the Game Boy Advance collecting bug, and hard. I must have tripled my collection until the obsession burned itself out after I bought a Vita in May. Guess what's come back with a vengeance? I recently purchased a handful of GBA games from a seller on Cheap Ass Gamer, who was eager to unload his stock. By the end of the week F-Zero GP, Golden Sun, Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls, Advance Wars 2, and Sim City 2000 will be taking up residence inside my already bulging Tupperware case full of Advance cartridges. I also have the first Super Mario Advance coming from a seller on eBay, which will finish my collection of that series. Hooray for the hoarding instinct!

 By the way, I've grown somewhat disillusioned with the Final Fantasy series after playing the sixth one on my Vita. You know, Final Fantasy VI, the crown jewel in the long-running series and the last game before the switch to polygonal characters and constant cut scenes? The game as it's presented on PSN suffers from insane load times before and after battles (five freaking seconds. Believe me, I've counted), but what I find most hard to swallow is the stiff, primitive combat. Tiny characters shuffle to the middle of the screen, swing their weapons, and shuffle back in a laughably 8-bit show of force. Cast "confuse" on a pack of wolves and their sprites awkwardly shift back and forth until settling on the opposite direction. Yes, the artwork for all the enemies is gorgeous, and the magic spells can only be described as psychedelic (cast Bio, turn on a black light, and fire up a doob), but I still can't help but get the feeling that I'm locked in a battle to the death with cardboard standees. Even Sega managed better with the fights in Shining Force and its sequel... they're still primitive by today's standards, but at least it looks like they TRIED.

The PSP-3000 is indeed sweet, but
I still want to punch this annoying
SOB in the jewels.
 I've been so happy with my own PSP-3000 that I've been meaning to spread the love to other gamers. I finally got that chance, picking up a cheap unit on eBay for The Gay Gamer's Bryan Ochalla. By the way, it's not just because I was feeling generous, or because it seems like he's the only guy who reads this blog. I was hoping to diversify the content on his own page, which leans a little too hard on Nintendo's systems for my taste. Man cannot live on Mario alone, after all! It probably would have been cheaper for me to read more than the same three blogs day after day, but feh, whatever.

Right now, I'm sweating bullets wondering (and worrying) if the system will reach its destination in one piece. The seller was an eBay newcomer, and his communication has been quick but distressingly terse. The fact that he was unwilling to insure the package or even offer tracking makes me even more nervous. On the plus side, he left his phone number in the auction listing, so I can always give him a friendly reminder (and another reminder, and another...) if there are any delays. Cross your fingers and toes for Bryan and me, folks.

This almost makes up for the hours of zero progress I
made in Falcom's other game Legacy of the Wizard.
 If you missed The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky in a recent PSN sale, well, sucks to be you! I'm already eight hours into this one and it's proved more entertaining than the dozen other RPGs I bought in the past month. (When the hell am I gonna spend any serious time with these? Oh well, to the backlog you go!) It feels more like Grandia III than the official sequel by Square-Enix,with whimsical characters and a similar (although not entirely identical) combat system. The members of your party actually battle their opponents face to face! Now THAT'S entertainment! It takes time to wrap your head around the magic system, and the rendered sprites drain some of the personality out of the experience, but Trails in the Sky is nevertheless the most fun I've had with an adventure game since December's love affair with Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. It's a pity American gamers never got the last two chapters of the trilogy.

Well, it's true.
  I wasn't on board with Miiverse at first, but now I recognize the brilliance of this social network designed exclusively for Nintendo customers. Gamers can not only post their thoughts on the games they're playing and offer screenshots of their accomplishments, but draw monochrome pictures as well, which often prove more expressive than you might expect. To my relief, Nintendo has been surprisingly lax on content... out of the 125 comments and images I've posted, including several critical of Nintendo and the upcoming New 3DS XL, the Miiverse admins have flagged just one. (Evidently posting Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on the page for Natsume's unfortunately titled S.C.A.T. is a no-no. Hey, I didn't name it!) I'm not sure if Miiverse will be an option in the next generation of Nintendo consoles, but if the feature is dropped in the future, it will be sorely missed.

A small fraction of what's available
to Club Nintendo members during
the promotion's final hours.
 Ooh, ooh! This one's important! Club Nintendo is going out with a bang, offering a hundred different downloadable games that can be purchased with Nintendo coins. These include everything from Super NES and Game Boy Advance classics to retail releases for both the 3DS and Wii U, everyone's favorite quasi-portable game console. You'll need a lot of coins to purchase Star Fox 3D or Paper Mario Sticker Star, but the option is nevertheless available. (Don't waste your coins on Sticker Star, by the way... you deserve better.) You've got until June to cash in your chips... after that, the Club Nintendo promotion goes kaput, and your coins will vanish along with it. By the way, there's still a special prize in store for players who've reached Gold or Platinum status. Nobody knows what that will be yet, but if anyone from Nintendo is reading this, I'd be quite happy with Super Mario 3D Land as a parting gift...

(images culled from various online sources, unless I took the pictures myself.)


  1. My thoughts on this stream of consciousness:

    1. Yay for your GBA hoarding--I mean, collecting! I, too, love the GBA, of course, although I don't own a ton of games for the system ... despite my obsession with Nintendo :P

    2. I said this earlier via Twitter, but BOOOOOOO!!! RE: your dislike of FF VI. Why rip on that FF, of all FFs? I mean, you kind of have to take when it was released into context, don't you think? Also, the PS1 port has been ripped on since day one for its loading times, but I guess you missed that memo? Go play the SNES original (or the GBA update), for crying out loud!

    3. Thanks again for being so awesome so as to buy me a PSP-3000, BTW. I haven't received it yet, but of course I'll let you know when I do--or don't. That said, I guess this is your not-so-subtle way of letting me know that you think my blog's too Nintendo-heavy these days? Not that you are the first to suggest that, of course. What can I say? I play what I'm interested in at a given point in time, and I write about what I want to write about at a given point in time, too. Right now, my focus is on the DS and 3DS.

    That said, you should be happy to hear that not only did I recently buy a few PSP games (before you bought me a PSP-3000, in fact!), but I also bought a Vita and a Vita game, so some non-Nintendo stuff will be mentioned soon.

    (I also bought a smart phone--my first ever--so I'll likely blab about mobile gaming more, too, from now on.)

    4. I love that you're enjoying Miiverse as much as you are at the moment. I wish I could get into it more, but I just don't have the time or interest right now. Plus, I can't stand how long it takes to load!

    5. Thanks for reminding me of Club Nintendo's imminent closure. I'm sure I have a bunch of coins to get rid of--and games to register for even more coins--so I guess I'll have to check out my account ASAP. Also, here's hoping Ninty replaces it with something better--although my cynical self won't be holding my breath in that regard...

  2. Right back at 'ya!

    1. I just got my copy of Super Mario Advance in the mail today. It's got the number stamp on the label and everything, so I'm pretty sure it's legit. Can't wait to toss it into my Micro for a test!

    2. You would not believe the holy hell I got from members of Talking Time for expressing this opinion. Believe me, you're not alone on this. I suppose games like Grandia (where characters aren't magnetized to a single spot on the screen) have spoiled me. However, I see people make the argument that this is the best you can expect from a 16-bit game and I just shake my head. Does nobody remember Shining Force? Heck, Chrono Trigger from the same company, on the same system has more lively combat than Final Cardboard Standee Fantasy VI. Maybe it's just personal preference, but there's something low-fi about its battles that rubs me raw.

    Maybe it would be a little more acceptable on the Game Boy Micro, with its lowered expectations and postage stamp-sized screen. However, I'm not super eager to pay $20+ dollars on a naked cartridge (and possibly a Nintondo... auugh!) to find out. Part of the reason I bought FF VI on PSN is because it cost significantly less. I'm just trying to decide if the massive load times are worth the savings. (The fact that I've been playing Trails in the Sky a whole lot more suggests that I wasted five dollars.)

    3. I am going to be crushed if you never get that PSP-3000, Bryan. I've twisted the seller's arm about tracking and he seems more open to the idea than he was before. Having said that, the system still hasn't been shipped. If no action is taken by Friday I'll put a bug in his ear about it. You'll get the tracking number as soon as I have it myself.

    But yeah, this is definitely my own charming (?) way of asking you to cover a wider variety of games. I mean, I obviously couldn't MAKE you do anything you didn't want to do, and I understand as well as you do about wanting the freedom to blog about whatever sparks your interest at the moment. However, I'm wagering the PSP-3000 will make you WANT to play PSP games more. It's a more better machine than the first one, for a lot of reasons. Get it hacked and you can even use it as a surrogate Neo-Geo or Game Boy Advance, should you be so inclined.

    4. Yeah, the access time on Miiverse sucks butt. Connecting to the site from your computer helps, but that limits your ability to interact with it. The fact that the >New< 3DS will speed up the system's GUI almost makes me want to give it a fair shake. (Almost.)

    5. I'm tempted to mine Cheap Ass Gamer for CN codes, since I've got a paltry amount of coins... just enough for two Super NES titles. However, it's a buyer's market at the moment and I don't think I'll be able to get anything terribly cheaply. We'll see how things pan out. If I could get Super Mario 3D Land for about the price I paid for A Link Between Worlds last year, I'd be pretty darned happy.