The Conduit: one-hit killed

I have still played relatively few first person shooters using the Wii remote, which is surprising when you consider how well it works. It's easy to aim at an enemy quickly, and as long as you fiddle with the sensitivity settings it can be much quicker to turn than a pad.

I enjoyed my time playing The Conduit's multiplayer, although I was hopeless. I'm pretty sure that a couple of the games I played were ruined by hackers - people who came into a room, survived a few headshots, and killed me with one shot. If they're not good enough to play properly, so be it.


I may well try the single-player game at some point.  It was great to see a vibrant community playing the game, and I hope that they can find another similar game to play going forwards. Maybe The Conduit 3 on Wii U …

Battalion Wars 2: you sank my battleship


I had never played this.  I've played the first game on the Gamecube a bit, but not huge amounts.  I remembered it's a real-time strategy game where you control units directly.  What more did I need before launching myself online?


I decided to see if anyone was playing a cooperative game first, because that way I could try to ride on someone's coat tails while I learnt the controls.  This was a good idea; I didn't even understand the objectives to start with.


I took immediate control of a battleship, and started shelling the enemy ships.  This seemed to go well until my other units and my colleague's units started to get a bit too close to the enemy.  I think I sank one of my own ships before I worked out how to change which unit I was controlling.


Having been left with a solitary infantry unit, I was glad to be given reinforcements when I landed on the beach.



Many of them didn't last long either.  I was instead left to blunder through the level following my colleague in arms, and even that didn't go to plan.  I tried to help a little too much, and got all my units killed.  Luckily there were some prisoner of war camps nearby that my men were rescued from.


A final push up the hill, and I completed the mission.  Easy!



It's a really good game, actually - I just need to find some time to work my way through the single player modes of the first one before I tackle this.  Maybe some time in 2037.

Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection: a last hoorah

Pikmin 2 has taken a bit of a back seat for a while, as I was finally able to get hold of my Wii games from the loft and play through those that use NWC for an online connection.  Today, you see, is the last day of full service, with the closure of GameSpy taking NWC down with it.  Before it disappeared, I wanted to see what I would otherwise miss.

I'll write up some games in more detail over the next few weeks, but in general I was surprised to find that in all but one case I was able to find people to play against or with.  This, on a console thought to have the least active online community, in some cases on games that are seven or eight years old.  It has been quite a contrast to Xbox Live, say, where if you're playing a game older then a few months it's rare to see anyone else in the world.  This may well, of course, be due to people logging back in to play the games one last time before the server shutdowns, but still …

For some of these games it meant taking the wrapping off - they've been sat on the "to play" pile for years.  Battalion Wars 2 was really fun, and I suspect I'll go back to that (though I never completed the first game).  I was hopeless at The Conduit, though I did manage at least one kill.  Mario Strikers Charged Football is a great game, even though I did lose the first game 28-1 because I couldn't find the tackle button (and there was a fair amount of lag) - the second game was a loss too, but at 3-2 it's a bit more respectable.

A lot of my time has been playing Mario Kart Wii's time trial ghost challenge mode, where you get one attempt at beating a ghost that's downloaded (which has a time just ahead of your best time, I think).  It's incredibly addictive.


Pikmin 2: almost paid off by day 34

I told you it was going slowly.  I have now completely cleared all treasures from the Valley of Repose, and almost all from Awakening Wood.  My total value collected stands at 9,895 wotsits, so the debt of 10,000 is well within reach.

Some of the caves have been tricky, mainly due to one or two areas where the combination of enemies makes it difficult to plan well.  However, I've found that returning to these levels normally has a higher success rate, so I'm guessing it's just a case of being more familiar with the territory.  In the Subterranean Complex, for example, I lost half my pikmin in the first few levels the first time I went down there, leading to an early escape, but on my second excursion ...



Collecting bulmin helped as well!


Completing the Subterranean Complex gave me a light bulb, which the robot space ship thing told me would be used to light up the caverns more.  I've not really noticed a difference.



The end boss of the Frontier Cavern was tricky - the Empress Bulblax returned but this time was giving birth to bulborbs throughout the level, making it tricky to even get to her in the first place.  The first time I battled her, I was left with only 14 pikmin at the end, but luckily some of those were purple and they were able to carry the treasure.


Day 32 was one of heavy casualties.


So, nearly finished.  I'm sure there's meant to be a fourth area on the selection screen - maybe it appears once I've paid off the debt?  I wonder if I will ever 100% complete this game ...

Pikmin 2: a veritable army by day 18

After finding the yellow pikmin, I spent a couple of in-game days building up the numbers to around 150, before exploring the Awakening Wood and finding electrified gates that I could now break down.  Some of these led me to the blue pikmin, meaning that I now have some of each type.  I've also ventured back into the White Flower Garden, so I have 15 white pikmin and 18 purple pikmin in the rockets - but the white pikmin came at a cost, since I lost around 30 reds in the fight at the end of the cave.


The blue pikmin are extremely useful in gaining access to new areas.  Annoyingly, I've rolled out a few bridges over water which other pikmin don't seem to be too keen on keeping to - I've lost a fair few yellows and reds (and a couple of purples) when they've decided that walking on the bridge was far too sensible and they wanted to skirt around the outside into the river instead.  Survival of the fittest.

Pikmin 2: slow progress until day 7

Without the overall time deadline of the first game, there's less incentive to rush around the levels, having multiple groups of pikmin on multiple tasks simultaneously.  Instead, I spent a couple of days just exploring Awakening Wood, building up my red pikmin numbers before entering the second cave.



Down in this cave I found white pikmin, adding to the purple pikmin I had from before.  The white pikmin are resistant to poison, which should come in handy, but only because the game has introduced poisonous enemies and obstacles.  It's a bit more complicated than the first game, and there are new 'sprays' which I know I'll never get around to using since they're a disposable item.


I find it pretty limiting that the white and purple pikmin can only be gained by going into the caves - and the caves are all a bit dark and miserable.  As a result I've got very few white pikmin left, particularly after half of them died in the final battle in the white flower cave.



Still, with poison-resistant pikmin in my party, I was able to break through to new areas, and I've found the yellow pikmin as well.  With the lack of time limit, I feel that my next task will be to build up numbers again ...

Aladdin: still amazing

I've been fiddling with the emulators on the Wii recently and have finally managed to get them in a state where they're easy enough to use.  I've also been experimenting with ROMs I've picked up.

The joys of being an adult and being interested in retro games is that many of the cartridges you long after when you're young can be had for a pittance when you're older - and you have the money to spend on them as well.  The disadvantage is having space to store them and the machines.  I've been buying various cart games off eBay for years, but often these have sat unplayed because my Mega Drive, Master System Converter, Game Gear, and so on, are all in the loft.  This emulation gives me a handy way of playing the games - and, of course, adding features such as save states and allowing me to run it through my video capture box.  It's not as good as using original hardware, due to the controllers, the lack of a clunk as the cartridge engages, and some emulation oddities, but it'll do.

The other benefit is that I get to try out some of the games I never played when I was young.  I've never owned a SNES, though have played many of the games through Virtual Console or other rereleases.  One day I will get a second-hand console, but until then this is ideal.

Anyway.  When setting the emulators up, the first game I wanted to try was the Mega Drive version of Aladdin.  This was always one of my favourite games when I was young, and I was great at it - making it all the way through without losing a life or even throwing any apples.  I thought that at the same time, I should try the SNES game, which was made by a completely different company, and also try the Master System and Game Gear games, which I own on cartridge but have never played.

Mega Drive



I immediately noticed that the game felt faster, which probably means that the 50Hz conversion wasn't entirely optimised.  Having said that, the difference felt marginal, and if anything controls felt a little less defined than I remember.  I last played the game on the Mega Drive about four years ago, so it may be a memory trick.

I ran through the first level with ease; I can remember ever jump, every enemy, every secret.  I lost a life on purpose just before the end of the level since I couldn't remember what happened - the genie int eh boxing ring.  I picked up the golden Abu and completed the bonus stage.


I played halfway through the desert before deciding that I ought to get on with one of the other versions, rather than spend the entire day playing this again.  It's still an amazing game, one of my favourites of all time, and I will play it again soon even if only to get to the rug ride stage.

SNES


It certainly looks nice, though the animation on Aladdin feels a bit off - his running animation isn't quite at the same speed as he moves.  And the controls feel a bit off as well, though this may be due to the emulation.  I went in expecting a bit of a rubbish game, because I've always been told it's not as good as the Mega Drive game ... and while it's definitely inferior, it's actually pretty good anyway.  You don't feel as free and athletic running through the streets, there isn't the same sense of scale and exploration, and it's doesn't make you smile as much when dispatching enemies.  It's still fun.

Master System



I wasn't sure what to expect from this.  I've never heard much about it at all, other than how great it looks.  And you know, it does look pretty amazing.  Obviously it suffers from direct comparisons to the Mega Drive game, but the animation is still top-notch, and it's vibrant and colourful.

What really surprised me was the complete difference in game style.  This is more like the endless runners that are now popular on the App Store, except with an end point.  The screen constantly scrolls, and you have to jump obstacles and avoid enemies in order to not get caught behind.  At first it's quite tricky, but you soon learn the level and can breeze through it.


The backgrounds are impressively drawn and the game moves at a fair pace.  I only completed the first two levels, but I will be back for the rest at some point - I do own the cartridge, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays on original hardware.

Game Gear



As with most games of the time, the Game Gear version is just a port of the Master System game, with a reduced window and slightly brighter graphics.  This makes the game a lot harder, as obstacles appear in front of Aladdin with much less notice.  It was no doubt great for anyone without other versions to compare it to, but against the Master System game it just seems unfair.

Everybody Votes Channel: screenshots

Back in June of this year, Nintendo closed down a few of the channels on the Wii which relied on someone sitting in head office maintaining some sort of online service.  These included the news and weather channels; while there are far more effective ways of looking up the news and the weather, Nintendo's approach of giving you a globe to grab and spin was more fun than most.

One of the services closed down was the Everybody Votes Channel.  When this first launched I visited it a lot - checking the results every couple of days, suggesting my own questions.  I was pretty good at predicting which option would be more popular.  I'd not used the channel for a couple of years, but when I heard it was closing I went back to look at it.  It seemed to still be quite well populated - there were at least enough people to form meaningful results, at least.

There are few good quality screenshots of the channel on the Internet.  I captured quite a few in June, which are included here.  If you want to use any of these on your websites, feel free - please just include a link to this post.



































Pikmin 2: a disastrous day 4

As you can see from my to-do list, there are a number games that I want to play and complete before I move onto the next in the series.  I loved Pikmin, and completed it properly by playing through twice and getting all the rocket ship parts within thirty days.  I bought Pikmin 2 for the GameCube, and then never got around to playing it because I wanted to devote time to it.  I bought the original and the sequel when they were released on the Wii, and have bought the third game for the Wii U.  I've never played any of them.

Until now.  Spurred on by the blue Wii U game box sitting on the shelf mocking me, I've started to play New Play Control Pikmin 2 on the Wii.  Yes, actually on the Wii and not on the Wii mode of the Wii U, so that I can take screenshots and video through my component capture box.  One of the best things about the Wii U is the integration of Miiverse, and it's daft that you can't use that while running Wii games.


The Wii seems to output at a bit of an odd resolution which the capture box has difficulty with, but you get the idea.


I'd forgotten how freaky Olimar looks, but compared to other people on his home planet, he's positively plain-looking.




Louie's expressions in particular are pretty horrific, and I was pleased to get into the game with the lovely pikmin.


The idea of the game is to collect rubbish which has a high value back home, so that Olimar's boss won't have his business closed and all assets repossessed.  The SS Dolphin was already taken, and so Olimar and Louie travel back to Earth in a rickety old rocket which has a really annoying metallic twang every time it speaks.

While I'm talking about things that annoy, the font used to show the number of pikmin, the name of areas, the results of the day, and so on, is really ugly.  It's odd that there are two different fonts used, with one nice and neat and the other really scrappy.

The first piece of rubbish indicates that we could be looking at a heavily branded experience ...



... but luckily so far I've not found anything too bad, and most stuff is actually old Nintendo memorabilia, like a Game & Watch, Love Tester, or playing card.  There are, of course, other things that you can collect in order to spawn more pikmin.


On day 2 I went into the first cave, where time seems to stand still and there are treasures aplenty.  The caves are a bit dingy.



The aforementioned Love Tester was also in a cave, and the annoying rocket thing reckons he can use it to make a gauge of some sort.  That sounds like a waste of a good antique electronic device.


I was doing well until day 4, but I then went through a long cave and found a big bug at the end.  I threw loads of pikmin at him, and he then straightened out and started rolling from side to side.  Many pikmin were squashed almost immediately.


They shall not be forgotten.

Game memories: F

Feel the Magic XX-XY (DS)
Project Rub in the UK, but I got this with my imported US DS ahead of the European launch.  In many ways it was an ideal game to launch the DS with, showing many varied ideas on how the touchscreen could be used.  It didn't hang together that well, but I remember the black, white and orange colour scheme vividly.

F1 '97 (PS)
Murray Walker shouting "He's on the green stuff" over and over again; tracks being messes of pixels a little way down the road.  A great game.

F1 2010 (Xbox 360)
Far too many options and menus to wade through.  Completing a single race in the career mode took ages, since you had to go through practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself.  Ideal for people who love F1, but for me it was just a bit painful.

F1 2011 (3DS)
As with F1 2010 above, but with a third of the framerate.

F355 Challenge Passione Rossa (Dreamcast)
At the time this felt like a massive technical achievement and tales of the arcade machine using three monitors underlined the game's credentials.  I played it for about fifteen minutes before being totally overwhelmed by the options and realistic gameplay - in other words, I kept spinning off the track, couldn't work out how to switch to a behind-car view, and had better things to play instead.

Field Commander (PSP)
Like Advance Wars but with little charm, little challenge, and a rubbish online mode.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (Gamecube)
I've never completed a proper Final Fantasy game; I've never even passed the first hour of one.  This, however, was played loads at virtually every games night we held.  Kieron had a bucket on his head, I was a Selkie.  John was accomplished at ranged combat, we all could heal each other but often didn't.

Fire Emblem (GBA)
I never completed this.  I remember it getting very stressful due to the fact that if a character died in a mission, they remained dead.  I restarted missions again and again to protect my favourite characters, and as a result it grew stale and too difficult.

Floigan Brothers: Episode One (Dreamcast)
It's a shame there was no episode two - this was an amusing game which was unlike anything else, as with a lot of Sega's Dreamcast output.  It was far too short and there was a bit too much collection required as far as I recall.  I got this in Singapore and worked out pretty quickly that it was a pirate version, but bought the proper version on my return from HMV for a fiver.

Ford Racing 3 (Xbox)
I was convinced to buy this by people on RLLMUK praising the second game, the fact it was online (when there were few other online games around, and it was £10 brand new.  I think I played it online three times and offline twice, before being tempted away by other games that were just more fun to play.

F-Zero (SNES, Wii, Wii U)
F-Zero GX (Gamecube)
F-Zero X (N64)
F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (GBA, 3DS)
GX is the best.  The Mode 7 games are a bit pants now, but at the time they seemed great, particularly on the GBA where the handling was much more refined.  Replaying them now, they are just too floaty and the career mode is a bit lightweight with daft difficulty spikes.

Future Tactics: the Uprising (Gamecube)
I bought this in the US and as a result, the hassle needed to load the game meant that I played it little.  A shame, as when I did I remember it being a clever game melding a strategy turn-based game with something that felt more action-based.  I'm now able to play US games on my modded Wii; I may try this again when I find it.

Fighting Vipers (Saturn, Xbox 360)
I continue to be hopeless at fighting games that are more complicated that Street Fighter II, but Fighting Vipers has a pleasing lack of combo, super and extra EX WTF meters.  The fighting feels solid and the idea of being able to knock off armour works well.  I get the feeling that if I played this a bit more I could get quite good at it.  That's unlikely to happen.