Three GameCube Games that Need Sequels

Posted in Random Musings, Video Games with tags , , , , , , on September 25, 2010 by cleverpun0

These are three games I still play to this day, and which are far more under-appreciated than their quality deserves (but perhaps that was true of the GameCube period…)

Kirby Air Ride: The ultra simple controls actually put me off when I first played a demo in target. Eventually they grew on me though, and after playing Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom exclusively with the wiimote-nunchuck scheme, I have yet another reason to appreciate the Keep It Simple mentality.

But the simplicity didn’t stop there; the game was a type of wide-open sandbox when it came to goals, and the three game modes were all very simple in their premise.

But the execution of the game belied this simplicity- the achievements-based gameplay was easy to follow, yet rewarding, and the racing itself was incredibly intuitive (with the exception of Top Ride, though that’s mostly a matter of perspective). The game wasn’t without its difficulty either, and it struck that balance between ease of play, luck, and required skill that so few games do.

Further, this game would be perfect for the Wii for those same reasons. Me (an admitted geek, if not a hardcore one), and my 3-years-younger sister (who is more the “casual gamer” type) can both play it on practically even ground. That’s the mark of a good game, and this game is still fun enough to hold its own even in today’s game market.

Custom Robo: This game actually had a fun, decently challenging single-player. The multiplayer is the real reason you want it, as it’s got the whole Smash Bros. “four person fighting game” idea, but the arena plays a smaller role (more important as cover than a hinderence), and there are no items to spawn. Customization plays a big role instead, and there can be an element of luck in what you pick, but after playing single-player you’ll know what you like, and all the friends I’ve played it with had fun experimenting with the numerous parts in multiplayer alone.

Now, a chunk of the parts list is less than helpful- pods are mostly junk, half the bombs are unhelpful, and you’ll probably find a certain class of robos that fit your play style, but this doesn’t drag down the fast-moving gameplay.

The NDS Custom Robo game (Custom Robo Arena) was basically the GameCube version with a weaker single-player and insufferable graphics. The GBA game didn’t get the gameplay right at all. This game deserves a proper console sequel, with entirely new assets (less repeat parts from the long-lived series, or at least many more newer ones), appropriately polished graphics, and another light-but-fun single-player campaign.

Mario Kart: Double Dash!!: Mario Kart is one of my favorite series. It’s so long-lived and well known I don’t need to sum up its high points here.

Double Dash!! was the best game in the series simply because it added some real teamwork and management skills into the mix. It took me the whole game to find the best kart and character combination for my play style (Yoshi, Toadette, the Parade Kart), and the unique items in particular added some real depth to the game. And the idea of two people working a single kart may seem complex, and while it demanded coordination and communication to pull off it was far from impossible.

Let’s face it- like many of Nintendo’s series, Mario Kart has gotten stale over its many iterations. Nowadays it’s all about using a few stupid strategies to win (constant wheelies or purposeful item hoarding/farming is not my idea of fun), and while the bikes were an interesting idea, the series is starting to overfocus on racing. Not terrible, but Double Dash!! made it about the items, without being too game breaking, and isn’t that what we’re here for?

The game was probably one of the trickier titles to master, as a result of all this. I actually couldn’t get the last unlocks by myself- it took me and a friend on a single kart to overcome the last challenges the game threw at us. That was good times…

Is this the worst list you ever encountered? Do you actually agree with any of the three? Leave some comments: I like to hear what people other than myself think.

Why I dislike the Protomen

Posted in Music, Random Musings, Reviews with tags , , on September 4, 2010 by cleverpun0

One word: Disappointment.

I never read much fan fiction, presumably because I’m a writer and I can’t be bothered to sift through it all to find the good ones, or to forgive the numerous mistakes. But you ever encounter fan fiction that is so far removed from the characters that it might as well have been an original story?

That’s the Protomen in a nutshell. As far as Rock Operas go, theirs is very good. But ignoring the length of it and some of the lyrical missteps, there is one severe flaw; it’s not related to mega man at all. Oh sure, they slapped some names and shout outs in there, but that’s the only tenuous connection there is. Even the album art doesn’t bother to make Dr. Light look at all like his canonical self.

This isn’t bad. Truth be told I like Dr. Light’s appearance, and his voice matches up perfectly with it. And Wily has an appropriately whiny voice. Emily voice, however, doesn’t fit at all (she sounds like a whiny, overweight chick), and Joe’s is too much like Dr. Light’s.

But if you are capable enough of writing a plot, and tying the music to it as they’ve done, why bother even pretending that’s it’s related to mega man in the slightest? If they weren’t pretending it was, these would be two of my favorite albums. Proper Rock Operas are hard to come by, and these really are great. But they can’t truly be, because the connection to their “source material” is too tenuous to justify anything, and so blatant as to bring down the music.

There are other flaws; the plot goes in a haphazard direction, important bits are hard to follow or nonexistent, and even if it was easier to follow, you could predict it all with one simple law- Finagle’s (anything that can go wrong will)- so you don’t need to get attached to anyone but the main characters, and there isn’t much shock when people die. This may yet be averted in the 3rd album, whenever that is. There’s also too many instrumental sections to cover up action. After all the great dialogue, why stop? Some narration, or even some grunts or noises would’ve helped, and they were more than capable of writing more lyrical dialogue. They try this in several areas and fail. Liner notes are not a substitute for storytelling, especially when I refuse to read them. After “The State Vs. Thomas Light” on Act II, this is all there is.

Further, the band has this sort of act going (and their fans are in on it) that they’re members of the universe they’ve built, but they really can’t pull it off at all. The effort would be better spent on their music.

If they were just another prog rock band, I could really like them. But their gimmick drags them down, and Tommy didn’t take three albums to get the job done. It’s really too bad. Disappointing, even.

Best Tracks:

Act II:

  • 2. The Good Doctor
  • 3. The Father of Death
  • 4. The Hounds
  • Light Up The Night

As always, don’t hesitate to comment.

Why Blog?

Posted in Bloggery, Random Musings with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2010 by cleverpun0

I’ve asked myself this several times, both before I started this blog and after. I started it both from boredom and a desire to know why this was so great.

I think I’ve got an answer.

Free time is clearly a large part of it. There’s so little on this site because I have classes, creative writing, guitar, a cat, several video games, and friends to occupy my time.

But here is the bigger reason why I can’t get into this: Being in my 20s, I’m just old enough to place more value on face-to-face communication than the by-proxy sort the internet provides. Now don’t get me wrong, I use the internet to communicate a LOT, perhaps more than I should. There are some situations where I actually rely on the limitations of text to help me through it. Alas, this sort of one-way communication doesn’t quite stand up there with IMs in the tiers of usefulness, and AIM was sorta low down there anyway.

Admittedly, part of this may be my lack of viewership: it’s hard to have dialogue on the internet anyway, so my uninteresting posts don’t facilitate it.

In real life, however, I don’t need to cater to interests or a niche to have a conversation or debate. People hang out with their friends for the very reason that they don’t want control of every conversation, don’t want to pander to a base or limit their focus, and want the other parties to have their own chance at guiding the topic. The only time this format works is in a classroom setting, and even then you need a very good teacher to take advantage of it.

“But what about other blogs?” you halfheartedly argue? Clearly specialization is the main reason they succeed, and in this time of ever-more-prominent media bias, they may have a niche to fill there too. Volume is another part of it. But they aren’t really my bag. I did tell myself to treat this blog as a sort of public journal, and I probably still will (I am posting this), but I’m glad I’ve finally come to understand my relationship with blogs more concretely.

Twitter is still the worst thing mankind has ever done to its ability to communicate. Facebook/myspace/et. cetera is still full of superficial attempts at friendship. Both still make me wish for the days of no internet, but then I’d miss all my tvtropes and porn.

One day perhaps we may find a good balance.

Protip: omelets

Posted in Food with tags , , , , on November 25, 2009 by cleverpun0

Don’t use a pizza cutter to slice an omelet. Or pancakes for that matter.

And while we’re here, I know they say you can put anything in an omelet, but I’d advise against salami.

And don’t put slices of cheese in there unless you like the center all gross and undercooked. A cheese grater is your friend.

Writing Advice 1: The Basics

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2009 by cleverpun0

I’m a Creative Writing student, and after years of school papers from numerous disciplines, and a decent amount of fiction, I can safely say I’m comfortable with both the academic and personal side of writing. When I mention that I’m a  writer people often tell me that they find writing a daunting task, and this puzzles me a bit, since to be in school, or a professor, or what have you, you have to write plenty. Both the personal aspect and the academic aspect of writing are like anything else: near impossible when you don’t know what you’re doing and tricky even when you do.

So in this post, I’m going to lay out the most basic of advices, hopefully general enough to apply to all types of writing, and save the advice more exclusive to Creative Writing for subsequent ones.

Also note that, as with all advice, this is what works for me. Even these very basic things don’t hold for everyone all the time. And with that, on to the list.

*Outline – Two problems that plague everyone are the tendencies to ramble and hit dead ends (narrative or otherwise). Having an outline of your ideas, even the loosest progression, helps both of these tremendously. Sometimes it is preferable to ramble (say, to fill all those pages of a research paper), but the more redundant things are the less interesting something is to read, and if you trail off it weakens your credibility as a writer.

For instance, I have written this entire blog post with no outline; that’s why my opening stands at three paragraphs and this list has little/no semblance of order. Luckily this is the internet so no one is going to bitch about it too hard (though feel free too), but if this were an academic paper on common writing advice it’d get a lower grade.

On the other hand, I’m in the middle of a story where the protagonist has little to no idea what’s going on for a large amount of the plot. So I tried having no real outline other than character descriptions, so I could get a better feeling for the character’s situation.

So plot out what you’re going to say beforehand, in at least vague and preferably more defined terms. More detail is better, since you can always change the outline, or drop it altogether if it gets restricting. Hopefully after enough practice, you can do this in your head, or even ignore this altogether if that fits the work (or your routine) better.

*Read Things Out Loud–  A very simple way to more easily notice your own mistakes, reading your own work out loud can give you a feel for how it may sound in the readers head, and is much more effective at pointing out spelling errors, typos and the like than just reading something in your head.

Even better is if you can hear someone else read aloud your work, because different people read things different ways, and their diction may not only point out typos etc. that you missed, but will also show you if anything needs to be improved for clarity, or if you need to change the emphasis in any particular sentence.

Obviously this can’t replace standard proofreading, but it can augment it. And as you will find, this particular piece of advice fits into several of the other items on this list.

*Editor(s)– Now when I say editor, I simply mean someone who looks over your work in at least a semi-professional manner. I am lucky enough to have a friend who is also a writer who I can trust to look over my stuff. And while your editing minions need not necessarily be better at writing than you, they should have an eye for detail at the very least.

Editing falls into two very broad types: copyediting (for typos, grammar, format, and other technical stuff) and content/conceptual editing, which is more about style, voice, and content. Ideally one person can do a bit of both regardless of their experience, but obviously, professional or not, different people will be better suited to one or the other. When asking people for their opinion and edits, asking them to focus on one or the other can help streamline the process.

And remember, that like all constructive criticism, most edits are purely opinion- don’t accept their advice if it makes the piece worse off, and do not take any advice personally. When editing things I always stress that what I’m saying is my opinion, precisely because people are inclined to take offense at even simple advice.

*Write like you talk– Let me explain this one a bit more. Writing (or prose at the very least) should always strive to be as much like (a) speech as possible, for several reasons. Firstly, remember that most people have an internal (or even external) monologue going as they read something. It helps keep continuity and makes things more interesting. By making your writing more like speech, you help lessen the amount of work the reader needs to follow the story. Clarity is key in most types of writing, but academia especially. Writing something with the intent of it being read aloud helps keep the focus on comprehension.

Secondly, if one wants to improve their writing, then it is far easier to take how you talk as a baseline, rather than trying to create a writing style from scratch. By starting with your speech patterns and moving upwards, your writing will be readable from the beginning. It also serves to more readily personalize your writing “voice”- something that every author should have.

Of course, there are limits to this advice. Not only should your writing be more polished than your speech (you are spending more time writing than talking) but it will often be very different in other ways. Written words can bend the rules a little more and still be understood, and also have different rules for emphasis than spoken things. In the same vein, sometimes you want to introduce layers of meaning to a work, and this is easier to do through narration than through the events of a story (though both work). But if nothing else, this is a good place to start, and anyone who can carry on a conversation can write because of this.

*Write what you want to read– This is fairly simple. If you wouldn’t want to read what you’ve written, then how can you expect anyone else to? As long as you write for yourself, then you’ll always have an audience. As long as you don’t compromise your taste, then you’ll never be disappointed in your own work (well, you might be, but at least for other reasons).

Do not, however, take this as an excuse to ignore legitimate advice.

*Read a lot– Never forget that actual writing is the best example of how to do something. When you reach the limits of your own skills, or even if you need a little prompting while working on something, don’t be afraid to study how better writers do things.

I learned how to use the semicolon from a combination of this and actual academic notes on it’s usage.

I shouldn’t have to mention this, but there is a big difference between examining someone’s style and taking cues from it, and outright copying. At the same time, writing a parody or homage of someone else’s style can actually help you get a feel for your own. Just be sure to give credit where it’s due.

So there you have it- six simple pieces of advice (Which I’ve over-explained) that can be applied at any skill level and in near any type of writing. Feel free to comment, but do remember that this is both very generalized and is based on personal experience.

Now get writing.

Chess with Death

Posted in Classes, Random Musings with tags , , , , , , on September 4, 2009 by cleverpun0

Today in my Anthropology class we split into groups to discuss some semi-hypothetical ethical situations. Not anything I haven’t experienced before, but the discussion started to get a bit off-topic after a bit, and that’s where the fun began.

Several interesting ideas were brought up, most of which aren’t mine to explain. But I did stumble upon an intriguing concept that I blurted out the moment it entered my head.

One of the big concepts of the class is western philosophy versus eastern philosophy. Having taken a western philosophy course, and being a westerner, I’m intimately and academically familiar with the former. But I can also say that I have experienced Culture Shock on few (if any) occasions.

Back to my original thought. Among all this discussion about ethics, Culture Clash was a key concept. And as we discussed the five situations my teacher had laid out for us the class seized upon a key difference between Western and Eastern philosophy; Eastern philosophy is more focused upon harmony, synchronicity, community – Western more upon individualism and personal control.

Now, death and dying were centerpieces of several of the situations we discussed, and in my sometimes slow brain I finally bothered to put them together. The thought of the western tendency to see death as something to be confronted, avoided, fought, coincided perfectly with the discussion.

As I presented this thought to the class, perhaps less eloquently than I might’ve, it didn’t mix with the discussion like some of the others had, though everyone did discuss it a little. That was alright, but it means I’m left to contemplate it further on my own.

Clearly this is an interesting thought to me, because it explains a lot. Foremost, it explains the Chess with Death trope that is so prevalent in western culture – the fiction-based idea that one can engage in a contest with the force of Death, can extend one’s life with sufficient effort.

One example among these situations of culture clash was a  old member of a nomadic tribe being left alone to die on the trail, so that he shouldn’t slowdown the caravan. The tribesman accepted this fate with dignity, while our teacher posited that a westerner among them might’ve felt otherwise.

The differences between western and eastern philosophy are pronounced in many areas, but this particular one struck me especially. I’m still not sure exactly why.

Pandora: Good concept, execution needs work.

Posted in General Reviews, Music, Websites with tags , , , , , on September 3, 2009 by cleverpun0

Yes I know I’m a bit late to the party on this one. Discovering it a few months ago when it had been around for two years… It’s nothing new for me I assure you.

The Music Genome Project is a complex undertaking that involves taking a frankly ridiculous number of songs, applying attributes to each of them, and sorting the results.

And what is this scientific catalogue of musical qualities used for? An internet radio station.

It is billed as much more than that, and rightly so. “Music discovery tool” may be a little pretentious (but then, it’s their words), but being able to index songs in such a way that you can conceivably pick one song, and then hear songs which are similar to it, is theoretically a potently useful tool for us music addicts.

There are, however, two problems with Pandora.

The first is with the automated algorithms it uses for song selection. Like any automated process, there are some pitfalls to be found. For example, I created a station that was to take cues from the Gorillaz, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the White Stripes. After a fair period of decent music, it played “Creep” by Radiohead. I personally am sick of the song, and I gave it the “thumbs down” Pandora’s way of recording like and dislike. It accepted my command, and informed me that it would never play that song on that station again. A few songs later it plays “Creep (acoustic version)” from the My Iron Lung EP.

The second lies in the very subjective nature of musical taste. When you first make a “station” the songs stay fairly close to your start points. They slowly branch out until they hit a point where they’re stretching pretty far, and as you reject and favor more songs, it slowly shrinks back down to your original intent. This is not a big deal, but the problem is that musical similarity or dissimilarity to a band or song you like does not always connotate quality. On my Saliva channel, they kept throwing in Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park songs, two bands I don’t mind saying I hate, despite the (allegedly) shared genre.

Aside from these problems (and the attendant shortcomings of being a free [and legal] service), this is definitely a worthy use of your time, whether you don’t want to deal with an actual radio station (you think the commercials are bad here…), whether you just enjoy hearing new music without having to test it yourself, or even if you just don’t like searching for a new song after every youtube video, then this is worth checking out. Just give it a bit before you dismiss it.

I’m also curious as to what future uses of the MGP might be like. Despite the obvious challenges of quantifying music, this is an admirable attempt at such an insane task. An internet radio station is all well and good, but the creators must have other uses in mind…

What’s the first thing YOU look up in a new dictionary?

Posted in Random Musings with tags , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by cleverpun0

So I purchased an ASL (American Sign Language) dictionary for a class. It’s a pretty thick volume (580-ish) pages, despite being a “compact edition”. Naturally, at my high level of college-bred maturity, the first thing I looked for is curse words. Sad to say the dictionary was sadly lacking in this regard: sure, things like “sex” redirect to “intercourse” and the other expected workarounds, but they’ve got an entry.

What really confused me was the other words/omissions I looked up or stumbled upon. They had entries for “rape”, “crack-cocaine”, “marijuana”, and “penis” – okay, I’ve gotten a chuckle – but lack “bitch”, “vagina”, “ass”, “masturbate” “shit” (or any synonym I tried), and- perhaps most important- “fuck”. I think we all know the sign for that anyway, but it’s the principle of the matter that bothers me.

A dictionary is a very important learning and reference tool. I can understand abridging some dictionaries to protect the fragile minds of our youngsters (they learn the words anyway, after all), but this dictionary touts itself as a resource for students and instructors, and those at the college level are more than mature enough to handle it.

The truly baffling part, then, becomes the words they didn’t omit. This may just be me, but I use the term “shit” far more than “cocaine”, and I use “penis” and “vagina” about equally. Censorship always carries a message, says something about the censor, but what does this selective bowdlerization say about the compiler of this dictionary? Perhaps they want to give people the ability to properly snitch on others? To embarrass their parents at a social event (but do their prissy friends even know ASL anyway)?

I checked some online dictionaries, but they too failed me. I had to resort to YouTube, where amateur tutors happily obliged.

A dictionary is a tool, and by making these arbitrary decisions of what to include and what not to, the editor is limiting it’s usefullness. I understand space is a restriction, but several of the factors I mentioned above lead me to think otherwise.

The Alpha

Posted in Bloggery with tags , , on August 17, 2009 by cleverpun0

Well, here I am, part of the bloggers. I always took a dim view of the random garbled mess that was the internet blogosphere, but the internet grows on you, and I’m willing to give it a shot.

Let the random garbled mess continue.