Saturday, September 10, 2016

Solving Nintendo's Emulator Issues

It appears like Nintendo is a perpetual victim when it comes to emulator software and piracy. Every week or so, there's a report of a new emulator or game remake in which people try to play a Nintendo game without paying for it. We don't hear about this often with Playstation or  Xbox games despite some games being wanted forever (e.g. Mega Man Legends which finally did release). In one sense, it ticks me off because Nintendo is still selling the software and is one of the selling points of its hardware. Not only are they selling it, they are putting money into the software (even Quality Assurance costs money).

Sure that gets into the debate about what rights do we have when it comes to games we own. One problem is that people always use that software for games they don't own, and once they play it, they won't go out to buy it. Now one valid question is, "How is this different than renting or borrowing from a friend?" The quick answer is that it the other two still encourage purchasing the game in the end. Perhaps that will be a topic for another time. The other part is that to pirate games is to feed your own ego and selfishness. If you have to have it so bad, then go and buy it even at the excessively high prices on ebay.

So my idea is that Nintendo starts licensing the emulators. This way, when one comes out, they can justifiably claim that it is lost profits (to be fair, emulating their code is already a violation of their rights). However, the license will cost a certain amount based off the library it can play and the average price of such a game if Nintendo would put it on the eshop. That would mean the NES emulator alone would cost quite a bit. However, it has to be high so that the developers of the emulators pay to make up for the thousands of downloads they encourage.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Just Having Fun: NX is the Power Glove Theory

To a certain extent, this is a serious theory, but really it's just for fun. I don't know anything about the NX. However, if they can pull this off, I might buy it fairly early after all.

I've previously was of the opinion that the NX will be a hybrid console, which would be nice. I also thought that it would have power stations to upgrade the performance, sort of like the promise of modular computers and phones. However, Nintendo appears to look at history and sees products like the 64 DD and 32X were failures. Sure, the problem was the lack of games and the timing, but I doubt they will try that market after Reggie said that Sony and Microsoft can fight over that red ocean.

Based off other comments, specifically Ubisoft's, it sounds like Nintendo is going back to the Blue Ocean strategy. Since the dual screen technology of the Wii U failed to catch on like it did with the DS, this means they are probably trying something else for the casual crowd. The fact that Breath of the Wild gameplay appears to be focused more on the TV instead of the gamepad, the NX might be utilizing only one screen.

The fact that Just Dance is coming to the NX indicates that either Nintendo is going to still use the wiimotes or it will be using a new controller. Ubisoft claimed that they believe the NX will bring back lapsed wii owners, so the controller needs to be intuitive. Apparently Nintendo wasn't thinking about VR when designing the NX, but now it's a possibility also seems to suggest that it is something to can do VR, but isn't required.

If the NX is a new experience, still motion controls, but it's not VR, I think it might be the Power Glove returns. The product was technically a failure from Mattel, but that was due to a lack of games developed for it. When a game was actually designed for it, it was highly praised by the blue ocean audience. If Mattel could produce that glove for $25 over 20 years ago, it's probably easier to do now and even with more advanced technology.

The glove can offer a few benefits. One is that it's more intuitive than the wii remote. Two is that it should be more comfortable to use than the wii remote. The major example is that you should be able to point your finger instead of bending your wrist, as Neo was lamenting in his piece about various controllers and game design. Three, it can offer new gameplay experiences. For instance, you can make a motion to hold a baseball and then throw it like one.

The glove would actually probably reach its full potential in combination with other Nintendo controllers. For example, the Wii U gamepad could still be used like in Pikmin 3.  Or it can be a stand to display where you can grab balls, simulating a holographic display. Now if Nintendo actually releases a holographic display, that would be awesome. The technology exists thanks to ultrasound, so it's possible.

What do you think? Is my theory sound? Have I done something horrible by building hype for something that may not exist? The only thing I request is that you don't get your hopes up. This is just a fun theory. I'd be satisfied with a hybrid console as well. I think possibly having a DS you can take on the go, then plug it in for better performance at home would be sweet. Since they have more patents for that sort of idea, that might be more likely. The power glove thing would require licensing from other companies unless their patents expired. However, if a company can pull the glove thing off, it's Nintendo.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Game Design and Controllers

Lately, my gaming activity has been limited by a sore wrist. However, I recently picked up a game on the PS4 and was playing it for longer periods than I should, but I noticed something; my wrist wasn't bothering me. In combination to how long it took me to adopt the controls, I realized that game controllers are really important, not only for comfort, but also game design.

If you want my opinion for the best controller, you won't get one. This is because each controller has its positives and negatives. None of them is perfect for all games, but the games that were best for console used the controller perfectly.

You may know that I love playing games on the Wii U gamepad. Even though I hear the Pro controller is great, I haven't bought one because I like the second-screen/off-tv experience. Of course, the controller is far from perfect. The position of the right stick is perhaps one of Nintendo's biggest blunders with its design. Though, when I hold it, I can understand why they chose that layout.
Layout is slightly annoying, but it is perhaps the best it can be due to that screen
My problem with the right analog stick is that the player's thumb naturally rests on the right control stick if he is going to use the left control stick. If Nintendo made a lot of twin-stick games, that's perfect, but they don't. A corollary to that is the thumb is on the D-pad if the player wants to use the buttons. Great for 2D games like Fire Emblem and a lot of virtual console titles, but not ideal for 3D games. The layout on the New 3DS XL is slightly better, but it's countered by the bad ergonomics of it being flat like a phone (which is also bad).

So the PS4 controller has good ergonomics, and being light makes it easier on the wrists, but it has two problems. First, the design makes it so the + buttons are never used on the left side. It's very rare that I touch them. This also makes it so that 2D platformers are not ideal for the system. However, my main complaint is the X, O, etc. buttons. They aren't intuitive and never were. They may become second-nature regular gamers, but never to newcomers or casual players. I recall playing a PS2 game and when the parts that required a random sequence appeared, I would always be at the disadvantage because I didn't know where they were located without looking at the controller. This problem is most profound on the Playstation controllers, but it's the same everywhere.

When I played Dungeon Defenders, I often mistook X for Y which would make my friends laugh because of how often I got it wrong. What I eventually realized was that since I was playing Batman Arkham Origins on the Wii U at the time, I was used to the buttons being switched. This is because A, B, X, and Y are also relative though this time it's Microsoft's fault for making the change in the first place. The best solution is actually the easiest and most baffling it hasn't been done; arrow buttons. The original C buttons on the Nintendo 64 controller are the most intuitive button layout when dealing with four buttons.
In a game like this, you don't need to look at the controller to know which button is which
Of course, that is one way to do it, and perhaps is best when you need to press button combinations of more than two quickly. I say that because there is a good layout for when you quickly need to press between two buttons; the Gamecube controller. That massive A button was brilliant to a certain degree. This is because it made the most important button the easiest to press. The button you press the most should be the easiest to access. That is where the player's thumb should naturally be. That is why the X button on the Playstation controllers (the bottom one) is the key button. It's the same on the Xbox controllers (the bottom one).
Not completely intuitive, but for 3D games, it's a good layout
If you think about the Gamecube layout, it's similar, you want to be able to easily access all the buttons from where your thumb naturally rests. There, the A button gave easy access to the other three main buttons. On the Xbox and Playstation controllers, it trades a button for the right control stick. The Wii U gamepad is similar, but it's the opposite. You thumb rests on the top button instead of the bottom one. This is mostly a problem because the most common buttons to press in Wii U games are still A and B (Right and Bottom).

Something you may have noticed if you look at controllers is that some aspect tends to always be ignored or not nicely designed. I mentioned the PS4's left side. The Gamecube's d-pad was also a pain to use, and the C-Stick (the yellow one) was better but not perfect. The Xbox controller's d-pad is also pretty bad. The Nintendo 64 almost never used the d-pad as well. I also did not care for the Super Nintendo's L and R buttons. I did not even knew they existed for a long time.
Still the preferred controller for Super Smash Bros. because the design is good for it
Controllers are incredibly important. They help guide game design for a specific console. The Wii Remote made it easy to play bowling, tennis, and swordfighting, but a bit painful in games that required a lot of pointing. So while Rodea the Sky Soldier is a fun Wii game, it can be a bit uncomfortable for long periods of time. Nintendo's best solution would be to develop a controller that is slightly bent so that players don't have to bend their wrists all of the time for pointing games. Of course, that would sacrifice access to some buttons which is a balancing act.

When you design a game, it's important to take into account the controller the player will be using. This is one of the many reasons why Wii U games are a different experience than the Xbox and Playstation versions. You also need to understand the accessibility for controls. As I mention before, the most important button should be the one your thumb rests on naturally. You can actually get away with the button the players uses the most not be the main button. The main button should be pressed the most, but it's more important that it's the button pressed in times of instinct.

To illustrate that last point, consider Mario and look at the Gamecube controller. In that game, B is Run while A is Jump. You will probably hold down B the most on because that's how you will run. However, Mario is a platformer, meaning you might not need to run, but you must jump. This means your finger may be on B longer, but A is still the most important. When it comes to timing, you don't want to look at your controller to find that important button. In addition, A's size and location also makes it easier be the button to advance through dialog.

Another aspect to consider is your button sequences. If your game often requires three different buttons to be pressed in order, you want to make that smooth. This means you want to start maybe with the main button and work clockwise if it's for a Playstation or Xbox. On the other hand, if it's the Gamecube, you want to start with B and then work your way to A and the X. 

I hope you enjoyed this look into game controllers and how important they are to game design. While no controller is perfect for all games, good games know how to use a controller effectively. The result is that the player may not even look at the controller, but still maintain complete control of the game. When this happens, he is better able to master the game and the game becomes a classic

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pokemon Co-Master Impressions

So the Pokemon Company released a new spinoff Pokemon game in Japan. It's a board style game where the goal is to reach your opponent's goal. The board itself looks fairly simple, but as I've played it, I've noticed it can actually be quite a complex game that's interesting to play.
Pokemon Co-Master! Because it would be lonely at the top?
I was able to download a copy of the game and try it out. However, the game itself is fully Japanese so I tend to act like former 5 year-old self and skip past dialogue and rules. I simply guess the effects and remember what I see. In the process, I've learned a few things but still confused on a few others. As a result, I cannot give a full review, but I'll get as close as I can for the bit I've played.

Reading through some comments on Polygon, this is apparently a video game version of some board game that came out quite some time ago but was short-lived. I actually like the board game. It's an interesting twist on the Pokemon formula as every Pokemon is useful, unlike in Pokemon Shuffle. By useful, I mean, you might want to hold on to your starter set and weak Pokemon, because they can be quite powerful. Yes, little Weedle can hold its own against a Charizard, probably. That's how awesome it is. Spearow is also perhaps the deadliest foe in the game where I'm at.

So here's game setup: You can have 6 Pokemon figures and you take turns placing or moving them across the board. Each side has 2 spawn points. If your figure gets defeated in battle, it gets sent to the Pokemon Center. If 3 Pokemon are sent there, the one that's been in there the longest gets sent back to your hand, allowing you to place it again after 1 turn.
Here: the board is showing where Pikachu can move to as well as its roulette wheel
For Battling, both sides spin a roulette wheel for their respective figures. The higher number wins, but it's not always that simple. There are effects which trump attacks. For example, Pikachu can spin a 100, but it's useless if Chespin guards. If the numbers are the same, nothing happens. Taurus' special ability can force its opponent to move back 2 spaces and have to wait 2 turns. This would also beat out Pikachu's 100 spin. On the flip side, if your special has more stars than the other figure's, then your special takes priority.

So what do I mean about Weedle defeating a Charizard? This is because if a Pokemon lands on a Miss, then Weedle only needs to land on a 10 and it will defeat its opponent. Each roulette wheel is specific to a Pokemon species so the value of Miss differs greatly. There are at least 2 Pokemon I've gotten where Miss is like 4% while others has it at like 60%.

Charizard may have power, but there's also a good chance he can miss
There's another thing that needs consideration when building your team: Movement Points. The highest I've seen is 3 and those are for the weaker Pokemon. The stronger your Pokemon, the more likely it'll be a 2 or 1. If you have all 1's, then you might lose to a team of all 3's.

Now just because there are roulette wheels doesn't mean this isn't a thinking game. Luck certainly has it's place in the game, but you definitely need to plan your actions. I've made a few silly mistakes that certainly cost me the match. However, if you are uncertain what to do, just tap the AI button.

That's right, you have an AI partner. If you tap it, then the AI will move for you. So far it's done a fairly god job and I've learned some neat tactics from it. However, I have seen a few moves that I think made no sense or were highly risky. I tend to use it when I see 2 valid moves but unsure which to choose. The benefit is that the AI tends to select one of those 2 rather than a 3rd. I also use it when I don't want to bother looking at every figure's roulette wheel in order to figure out which Pokemon to send out.

There is one thing I have noticed that the AI never does and that's play your "plates". These cards grant bonuses for your team. For example, I can increase attack power of Torchic by 20, cure a poisoned figure, etc.. Some cards end your turn as soon as you play while others allow for movement as well. Both have their places as sometimes you need to move, but it would cost you the game if you did move a figure. Sometimes the best thing to do is force your opponent to attack first.

Getting interested? How do you obtain new figures? The 2 ways I've seen so far is win a match or "purchase" one. Both are difficult as the match option has you spin another wheel with the odds not in your favor. The shop option requires either golden tickets or diamonds, the latter of which can be purchased with real money. The result is that it's difficult to get free figures, but I have managed to get quite a few with quite a bit of patience. There are some duels where the odds of getting a figure is a bit higher and sometimes you can win within 2 moves, so it's possible to collect the figures. There are also matches where you are guaranteed a good prize when you win the first time, like diamonds or a Pikachu figure, in addition to the roulette wheel spin.
This game totally explains Ash's Pikachu and how it can lose to easy opponents while taking down strong ones
It is possible that you just keep getting stuck with obtaining the same figure again and again. Those figures can still be put to good use. If you fuze them with another Pokemon, the base figure gains a lot more experience than you get from winning a battle. After leveling up, you can deplete the Miss sections and increase the odds of landing on something you want. It's a slow process, but the results can make your figure better than another of the same model.

You can also play online against other players in ranked battles. To do this, you first need to obtain special tickets by playing the campaign mode. When you go to play, there's ranked mode and room mode. I assume room mode is to play against nearby opponents. In ranked mode, you have a chess clock where your time goes down during your turn. This adds a sense of urgency to every action as you want to make sure you have more time on the clock than your opponent. It also forces you to try and plan your move while your opponent is making his.

If you have doubts that you are playing against a human due to the AI nature of the game, my doubts were resolved when my opponent stopped playing as soon as it was guaranteed that I had won. Luckily, if your opponent doesn't move for 1 minute, then you are declared the winner. I could see a desire for the time to be 30 seconds, but sometimes it really does take more than 30 seconds to figure a good strategy.
Uh-oh! Time is running out on my side
Something I find weird, which might be on Google's side, is how the game is rated for 3+. Does that mean they expect 3 year-olds to play this game? That's pretty bad considering that most of the text is kanji and there are quite a few currencies, making this a money trap for those who aren't careful.

In summary, I'm so far enjoying this free to start game. The progress can be slow, but it is fun when you have a good match.  It's a nice strategy game with good replay value and I could see them using this as a means of reintroducing the board game. Perhaps they can use all of those Pokemon Rumble figures that didn't become a hit. I do have one last warning and that is this app does drain the battery pretty fast, even as fast as you are charging. So you might want to limit playing when you don't have access to a charging station.

P.S. The app does crash occasionally. I haven't seen too many, but I have gotten a few. The good thing is it looks like the app handles it nicely so I didn't lose anything. Hopefully it doesn't get worse as I progress towards the end. I'm still only at the 2nd tower.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Interesting things about Twilight Princess

So yesterday, I wrote my review of how the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was ported to Wii U. In my analysis, it's a good port. Now as I played it, I noticed a few things that I found interesting.

  1. Midna's hand gesture is the Japanese one for "Come": In the west, the palm would be face-up, which I saw one boss do in a fight (won't spoil for those who don't know who). However, in Japan (where the game was developed), the palm is face-down and looks like you are digging.
  2. The Hidden Village shootout is awesome and inspired a spinoff game. However, you can also play a Cat-hunt version by talking to the cucco. The goal is to talk to every single cat in the village and you get a piece of heart.
  3. This is the only Zelda game where someone looks at you as a hero: In most games, you are called the hero, but no one looks up to you as one. This makes Twilight Princess interesting, because you have the character Collin aspires to be like you.
  4. The shaman can't stand the bar owner :D
  5. The Gorons go from Sumo to Boxing. If this game was made in the US instead of Japan, it probably would have been deemed controversial.
  6. I didn't try it, but you can make the oocca fly forever, making it look like they are trying to attack you Video on youtube. I wonder if they'll attack you like the cucco.
  7. The wolf form is more powerful than the Master Sword.
  8. When you reach the temple of time, it kinda looks like the Wii U tech demo. Makes me wonder if they have been developing this port since then.
  9. Midna may have an interesting story and dialogue, but she stinks when it comes to giving you advice about what to do next.
  10. The game is a bit inconsistent about whether some items should be in the fancy chest or just a normal chest.
  11. When playing the balloon popping minigame, get the minimum high score and slowly increment each round in order to get money fairly easily.
  12. There are mini-dungeons hidden in Hyrule Field.
  13. The yeti's mansion is filled with paintings of various characters and locations, including some I don't expect he could reach.
  14. When you switch to Zora armor, you can't swim faster like you can in human or wolf form.
  15. Some of the howling stone songs are from OoT.
  16. The developers seem to like Westerns. Not only do you have the joust and herd, but also the Hidden Village shootout and this pose.
  17. Rutela's theme is the Serenade of Water from OoT.
  18. The Hidden Village is likely the Kakariko Village from OoT due to the information provided by its inhabitant, which had a shooting game.
  19. You can play fetch with the dogs in Castle Town by picking up a bone and throwing it. The dog will bring it back.
  20. Even though it's dogs that are known to have good smelling senses, it's Telma's cat that says she could tell you're Link based off your scent 
  21. Possible Spoiler: Your trainer for Hidden Skills call you his Child
  22. The Wii U version adds a touch button to let you switch between Wolf-Link and Human Link on the fly.
  23. You don't need to talk to Midna in order to warp on the Wii U version. Just open the map, press L to turn on portals, and touch your destination.
  24. The Wii U version starts you off with a wallet to hold 500 rupees and the next one holds 1000. Much better improvement over the Gamecube's 300 start. However, if you can't hold the rupees, you won't put them back into the chest anymore.
  25. If you plug in headphones to the gamepad, the audio will stop playing on the TV automatically
  26. In some of the dungeons for the Wii U version, you can't access some chests until later. First one I noticed was in Death Mountain
  27. The Wii U version has a special lantern to help you find Poes.
  28. If you want to make a bow combination on the Wii U, you have to pause the game.

Bonus one: Concept art for Ilia had a fairy image on her forehead. That could possibly mean that she was intended to be Navi from OoT incarnate (I recall seeing this in Hyrule Historia).

Extra one: This is the only Zelda game that has an explanation as to how Link can carry all of that equipment

Update 6/16/16
The character who repairs the cannon is a reference to Mario. Using cannons to reach new locations such as a sky world or desert world appeared in New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS in 2006, the same year Twilight Princess originally released.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Port Review: The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess for Wii U

First things first, I should apologize for not writing a review for a long time. The simple explanation consists of two things. First, I've been busy with life changing events. Second, I haven't been buying as many new games but instead been playing Pokemon Shuffle with the little spare time I had. However, I did pick up Twilight Princess for the Wii U for a few reasons. First, I wanted the soundtrack that came with it. Second, I cannot play my Gamecube version for a while as I do not have access to a Wii or Gamecube to play it on. Third, I wanted to check out the Wolf Link Amiibo and I hope that it has some neat feature in the new Zelda game. So how does the game hold up as I went through effectively my third playthrough? Pretty good and it gives me some hope for how the new game will turn out.
Good Job, Nintendo
Of course, I should clarify but what I meant by the word "hope". There are some good features that I want them to carry over and there are features I want them to make/improve. All of these have to do with the gamepad implementation.

Twilight Princess used the gamepad to an okay level. You can play the full game using the gamepad only, but I found that out by accident rather than being told how to do so. For those who want to know, pause the game with the + button and then press the - button to switch displays. As a warning though, the resolution takes a hit. It still looks nice, but not as nice as on a 32-inch 1080p HDTV. To make up for that, Nintendo included a feature that's nice for "need to be quiet" time: Audio Source Swap. If you plug in headphones into the gamepad, the game audio will automatically stop playing on the TV, switching completely to the headphones. It sounds so trivial, but I utilized that feature quite a bit during the 30 hours I played.
So I can listen to the Hidden Village song without disturbing my family

Now the gamepad can be used for both items and map display and you can use either in real time. I found that neat for the times when I wanted to swap items when waiting to reach a destination. A good example is when you are sinking in the water and want to pull out the clawshot or water bombs. It may not save a lot of time, but it's a lot of the little moments like that where you can determine if a feature is good or not. If you are in big trouble, then you can always pause the game and change your items that way. It's good, but it could be better.

Twilight Princess is an interesting Zelda game in that it does try to utilize old items later on, but those occasions are sometimes only for one-time use.  As a result, I find it annoying to assign one item to button and then change it back to something I'll actually need. For instance, the bombs are sometimes used everywhere, but not often enough to keep a button assign to them. There are two things I would like done here. One is to follow the example of Ocarina of Time 3D in which there were 2 touch buttons that you could assign items to. That way, you just tapped that button and the item would be used. The second option, which I think would be better, is a double-tap activation for the item on the touchscreen. It's perfect for the often one-time need, and by making it a double-tap, the chances of wasting precious resources becomes smaller.

I know that Nintendo can do that, because they implemented it to do one awesome feature: the change between human and wolf-Link! It's perhaps one of the best additions to the game as it makes things so much smoother than having to talk to Midna to transform every single time, only to find out that you can't do it. Once you gain the ability to transform on-demand, that icon is fantastic. No longer are you bound to fighting either as a wolf or as swordsman because it's too inconvenient to switch. Two thumbs up for this feature!

As a side note, everything that is selectable in the menu screens works with the touchscreen as well. I could select portals to warp to without talking to Midna, change my equipment, save my game, etc. So bonus points for that as well, Nintendo and Tantalus.

There is a another worry aspect and that's the hub on screen. You can have the map displayed on the gamepad, but you are still forced to have the hub on your TV. I looked at the settings, but I couldn't turn it off. Maybe I do want to keep them on screen, but sometimes it's in the way, especially since I did actually look at the gamepad map most of the time. It's a handy tool though I'm not sure if the tab design for switching between map and items was best practice. I might have liked a 3rd option that had the mini-map with some items to pull from.

One improvement I would like added here would be to be able to write notes like in Phantom Hourglass. The reason for this is because I found some treasure chests, but was unable to access them until I found an item. I would have liked to make a note for myself, which I could do with the 3DS built-in game notes, but the Wii U doesn't have such a function.
To be fair, you can share pictures like this on Miiverse with your notes.
Back to the improvements, I'll claim that Amiibo was implemented fairly well. Since Link is one of the most popular Amiibos, it's generally safe that the player has Link or maybe Toon Link. Using the Link (or Toon Link) amiibo restocks arrows, which is a useful function without being game-breaking. The only caveat is that you cannot do it more than once a day (I don't know how it works if you have multiple Link Amiibos).  Now if you bought the edition with the Wolf-Link Amiibo (a.k.a. the Midna Amiibo), you can play a special gauntlet of enemies as Wolf-Link. What I've learned form doing that is that the wolf form is more powerful than the Master Sword and sometimes easier to defeat some enemies.

Last improvement to note is the option to use motion controls. You may not want them, but I found to be using it more often the the control stick. Why? Because I could move the camera at just the right speed and precision for my target. It is on by default, but turning it off is as simple as going to Collection screen (Down on the D-Pad) and then Settings (lower-right corner). However, I do suggest to try using them for the whole game. The same rule applies here as with every Nintendo motion controlled game: the game initializes its tracking based off your controller's location at the instant you regain control. So if you use the clawshot to reach a location, it will re-initiliaze after you reach that location so you need to make sure that your controller isn't at a funny angle. It was like this for Wii Sports Resort, Skyward Sword, and Splatoon. I think most of those who hate motion controls really just don't pick up that this is how it works.

Now, if you already know you don't like Twilight Princess, this port probably won't change your mind. The story and pacing is still the same. While some of the core gameplay has been improved thanks to the gamepad and motion controls, you still have to deal with the mandatory mini-games and side-quests. On the other hand, if your complaint was the graphics, they look nice here. At least as nice as I recall them back in 2006. If you were wondering about picking this up, then hopefully this analysis proved to be helpful.
Does this make anyone else think about the Wii U tech demo? The room here was very nicely done

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Impressions: Rodea the Sky Soldier for the Wii (not Wii U)

I've been busy the past few weeks and will continue to be so. Therefore, I do not know when I'll be able to write a full review after beating Rodea the Sky Soldier. However, since I do have time today, I can write most of my impressions for the Wii version. The consensus I have found online is that this is the best version even though it's only available in the Wii U for the first run. Can you still find it? I say most likely since I was able to get it as well even it's been weeks after the release. I believe that until the publisher says something about the game, there won't be a second run. The shame is that the Wii version is a neat game even with my critiques.

Rodea is an important game for a number of reasons. First, it was announced at the end of the Wii's time and the beginning of the 3DS lifecycle; a time where there were no real support for either. Second, it was by the man behind Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS. When you realize who the developer was, it isn't surprising to see the influences from those two series. Now I haven't played NiGHTS, but I hear it's good and the images I've seen of gameplay show the influences it has on this game.

The basic summary of gameplay is you flying to reach a destination. You collect things called gravitons and when you hit a chain at a specific angle, your flight is guided to complete the chain. Collect 100 and you get a 1-Up. Special stages require certain amounts of gravitons with the goal being to collect a shiny object. You can find item boxes with extra gravitons, 1-Ups, and even a barrier to protect you from 1 hit. Guided paths can be speedy loops, launch points, grinding experiences, speed boost panels. Enemies consist of machines trying to attack living organisms. To attack foes, you perform an homing spin attack which also acts as your boost to reach your destination faster. Sound familiar?

Wii U version screenshot since I can't find official Wii ones
That being said, the gameplay actually works nicely and tries a few new ideas. The game is played with just the Wiimote without the nunchuck. You use the wiimote to point to your destination and then press B to fly. If you just press B, you'll fly in a small but fairly straight arc, but if you swing a bit, the arc will grow. This allows you to attack from the sides or change directions without having to change the camera angle. The latter being useful for gravitron chains. I do advise that you take breaks every stage or two to let your wrist relax from the pointing position.

The damage system is close to Sonic's but not as mean. Each level starts with you able to take 2 hits before death, but you generally can find a flight upgrade which are fairly generously placed throughout the level. The upgrade not only grants you one more hit, but doubles your attack power and distance you can fly with one press. Add the barrier and you can take up to 4 hits at a time. Also, weapon upgrades count as flight upgrades, so you'll almost always be at maximum power. However, once you are down to 1 hit, you are in danger since your flight ability is very weak and you cannot attack anything.

Remember that I said the primary gameplay is when you are flying? When you are in the air, things are fairly smooth and neat. However, once you land, the gameplay feels slow. You move Rodea by using the d-pad on the wiimote while moving the camera by pointing the wiimote at the borders of the screen. This camera movement is incredibly slow and there's no option to speed it up. You also control the camera the same way in the air, but generally the game does a good job in getting it close enough to the right angle for smooth gameplay. That being said, I feel like the game would greatly improve if the d-pad could quickly control the camera when you're in the air, especially during boss battles.

When you are fighting a lot of foes, sometimes it is best to completely give up controlling the camera and switch to automatic view. By pressing the (-) button on the wiimote, you lock on to the nearest enemy and switches when it's defeated until there are no enemies close enough anymore. This is helpful because the camera will shift fast, allowing you to more effectively chain and attack. There is one power up that allows you to quickly lock to multiple foes and attack quickly but I found it slightly hard to master. Luckily, you only need it for a few sections and there you have plenty of time to use it.
It's the Saiyan Scanner thing
Speaking of time, you generally don't have to worry about it, unless you are allowed only to play for 15 minutes at a time. Levels are fairly long which is why I suggest you take breaks. Keeping your wrist at the point position for a long time will make it hurt. There are unfortunately a few sections where you have to race the clock or you lose a life. On the bright side, you generally have a lot of lives and checkpoints are fairly well placed. So far, there's only one time where I had to start back further than I wanted to and I'm on section 22 or 24.

Perhaps the most annoying feature besides the camera is the voice acting. However, NIS America was gracious enough to include 4 languages, including the original Japanese. Once I switched to Japanese, I can totally stand the story now and practice my Nihongo. From the amount of knowledge I have, they pretty much translated everything literally, which is good. Also, if you want more Sonic similarities, I see the same attitude vibe from Rodea every now and then.

Multiplayer is included in the Wii version, but the stages need to be unlocked and are pretty much standard Sonic competition. In other words, they aren't so great. It's a split screen experience and can be played with up to 4 players, but you may want a big TV if you want to try. My TV is pretty small so it's no good for me to get 3 of my friends to even attempt.

So what's my recommendation? I like it so far and do want to play it more often than I have. However, I'm quite busy and when I have free time, the TV is in use. Luckily I can use the Wii U gamepad as my "TV" and play it that way when I really want to, assuming it has a charge and my sister isn't playing Splatoon. If you like Sonic the Hedgehog or NiGHTS, give the game a try if you can find the Wii version. I picked up the game brand new on Amazon for about $32 or $37 and I consider it worth it. If you are worried about the fact that Rodea looks like a Devil, I haven't seen any reference to that yet. The story is that Rodea is a machine who thinks he has a heart and wants to stop the evil robot empire. Anyways. Happy flying!