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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2008 » May

May 2008


video games May 21st, 2008 by HMTKSteve

As I mentioned in my earlier post today my copy of Wii fit arrived via UPS this very morning. Yes, I know it is not supposed to be available for purchase until May 21, 2008 but the fine folks over at Walmart dot com decided I should get mine early!

I checked my packing slip and the only date I found on it was the ship date of 05/15/2008. Did anyone else who ordered their Wii Fit through Walmart dot com get theirs a day early? I have to admit I was very surprised as the wording on the web site made it sound as if I would not get my Wii Fit until some nebulous date after May 21, 2008.

Unboxing the Wii Fit

This is the Wii Fit box. It opens from the top. The white part you see on top is the carry handle built into the box, yes, it is heavy and does need a handle.

As you can clearly see the balance board fills the entire length of the box and the other stuff sits in the middle. So, what's in that other stuff?

Unboxing the Wii Fit

As you can see the cardboard accessory piece is chock full of stuff. Aside from the box that holds the game disc we also have four AA batteries (get rechargeable batteries fast), the balance board manual and four circular things.

Those four circular things are extensions for the feet of the balance board. They are there in case you have a thick or deep carpet on your floor. The snap onto the four balance board feet and raise it off the floor so that the carpet will not interfere with the balance board.

An interesting note was in the balance board manual. You can only sync one balance board per Wii (so much for two-player balance board games) but you can sync up to 10 controllers. The book did not mention if that meant 10 Wii-Remotes or four Wii-Remotes and six other items. When in use the balance board takes up the fourth slot in the controller line-up.

Unboxing the Wii Fit

As you can see, the balance board itself is wrapped in plastic and placed between two cardboard protectors. It's a simple matter to pull of the protectors and remove the plastic.

Once you unpack it and flip it over you will see this:

Unboxing the Wii Fit

There it is, the battery compartment for the balance board. See the little red button? That is the sync button. When you get ready to play Wii Fit you have to begin by syncing your balance board to your console. No worries, the Wii will walk you through it.

First Impressions

I did not have a lot of time today to play with my copy of Wii Fit though I did make a profile and go through a few minutes of each area.

Wii Fit begins by having you pick out a Mii. You then enter in your height and age. Stepping on the balance board allows the Wii to weigh you and calculate your BMI or Body Mass Index.

Nintendo makes sure to notify the users that the BMI information can be misleading for small kids and for muscular folks. Back when I was in the service BMI was used to check for overweight soldiers. If someone failed the BMI they would be "taped". The tape test would be used to see if the person was fat or just muscular.

I remember one guy in my unit over in Germany would always fail the BMI test. Some guy from another unit would be there to do the tape test and tell him to take of his shirt. One look at this guys cut physique and the taper would just laugh and tell him to get out of his office!

Wii Fit also tests your COB or Center of Balance. Yes, there is a reason why it is called the balance board!

Because of the way the balance board is designed it can tell if you are leaning left, right, forwards or back. It uses this information to help you attain a better posture. Better posture leads to better health.

After showing you your basic at rest posture it gives you the opportunity to learn where your proper posture lies. This is done by standing on the balance board and shifting your weight until you get a small dot within a small circle.

After all of the initial testing is done Wii Fit saves your profile and gives you an opportunity to set a goal and a time table for reaching it. I chose a BMI goal. My BMI registered as 23.7 and I set a goal of 22 within 6 months. We'll see how I do.

Wii Fit also provided me with a Wii fit Age (what's with Nintendo and their ages?). My wife laughed uncontrollably when it said I had a Wii Fit age 10 years older than me. Yeah, thanks! Oh, don't worry, she will be doing the Wii Fit routines right beside me. I figure working out together will be good for both of us.

Wii Fit Tree Yoga Pose

Yoga

I'll be honest, I did not know what to expect from the Yoga aspect of Wii Fit. My wife used to be heavy into yoga and I went to a few classes with her (back when we were still dating) but I have not been very flexible since high school. A little back injury here, a little triple-double-decker sandwich over there... you get the picture.

The Yoga is very low impact though I lack the ability to do some of the poses. You are scored on the poses based upon how well you can maintain your balance.

Keep your balance good and steady and you earn more points. Depending on how many points you earn will affect your final score and whether or not you get labeled a Yoga Master or an unbalance slob. (I made that second part up.)

Some of the poses involve you standing on both feet others have you balance on one. Some of them have you with both feet on the balance board while others have you with only one foot on.

Wondering how the balance board can tell if you are properly balanced? Think of the balance board as for separate scales. Since the Wii already knows how much you weigh and can tell how well balanced you are based on how much or your weight is distributed across the multiple sensors.

Aerobics

I did not spend a lot of time with the aerobics games yet but I did try one; the hula hoop game.

Wii Fit Hula Hoop Game

Let me tell you right off the bat that I was bad at this one. Very bad. I had no problem keeping my hoop spinning by circling my waist but I just could not get the hang of catching the rings being thrown at me.

I think I caught one ring a few seconds before the game ended. Yeah, I'm pitiful.

Strength Training

I did not even give these games more than a cursory look. So I can't comment on them yet.

Balance Games

I hear there is a skiing game coming out for the Wii that will use the balance board as an optional controller choice. Until then you can satisfy your skiing desire by playing the skiing balance games.

I tried the downhill one and the ski jump.

Wii Fit Skiing

You lean left and right on the balance board to turn and you lean forward to go faster. Lean too far and you go to far to that side. I'm not a skier myself but if the full blown skiing game is as good as the mini-games I will be buying it!

Conclusion

So far I am impressed with the quality of the balance board and the game. As you spend more time working out the game rewards you with credits. Get enough credits and new parts of the game unlock.

I know some folks do not like unlockable content and they may wonder why Nintendo would choose to do so in this game but it all makes sense. Do you really want a newcomer to try an exercise that may be beyond them before first teaching them the basics?

I will be writing more reports on how I'm doing with my Wii Fit routine so stay tuned!




video games May 20th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

Wii Fit

Are you ready to get fit? Nintendo released their new fitness game on May 19, 2008 at a big event in New York City. Unlike many video games Wii Fit is not designed to entertain you as much as it is designed to make you more aware of your overall fitness level.

Wii Fit will not have you lifting weights because it is based on the Eastern approach to fitness rather than the Western. By this I mean that Wii Fit is not designed as a strength trainer but a health trainer.

Consumers and curious onlookers of all kinds flocked to Central Park for the debut of Wii Fit™, the innovative new fitness game for Nintendo’s popular Wii system. The interactive launch event included live demonstrations of the wireless Wii Balance Board™, personal Wii Fit training sessions and fundraising activities for the American Heart Association.

Consumers and curious onlookers of all kinds flocked to Central Park for the debut of Wii Fit™, the innovative new fitness game for Nintendo’s popular Wii system. The interactive launch event included live demonstrations of the wireless Wii Balance Board™, personal Wii Fit training sessions and fundraising activities for the American Heart Association.

It's hard to believe that we actually have people lining up on launch day to buy a video game designed to help you get fit. As far as I know there were no muggings, knifings or shootings thought there were reports of a few push-up competitions.

Think about that for a minute. People have been lining up to buy the Wii since launch day. GameStop and Amazon both ran out of pre-orders for Wii Fit over a week before launch! So, if you are waiting in line for this one two things must be true:

  • You already have a Wii
  • You are interested in fitness

Are the days of the coach-potato gamer behind us? Does Nintendo have the Midas Touch? Only time will tell but if you go by sales numbers alone Nintendo is the king of video gaming.

Wii Fit

Wii Fit

I should be getting my copy of Wii Fit in a few days, what about you?

Photos provided by Nintendo of America

Update
Mine just arrived via UPS. I tried out a few things on it but i have to head for work. I'll tell more tomorrow.




video games May 16th, 2008 by HMTKSteve
Nintendo DS Metalic Rose

Most of us thought that the pink DS Lite was released by Nintendo to target the female gamers of the world. It turns out we were wrong.

The pink DS Lite was just the first step in Nintendo's master plan to turn non-gaming girls into gamers. Behold the new Metalic Rose Nintendo DS Lite!

Nintendo is making Metallic Rose a regular part of the Nintendo DS™ color palette with the help of some celebrity spokespeople. Starting Monday, May 19, America Ferrera and Carrie Underwood will be featured in commercials for the Metallic Rose version of Nintendo DS. Metallic Rose debuted in late 2007 as part of a Nintendogs® bundle and will be available as a standalone hardware system at retailers nationwide late this month. Liv Tyler also will appear in Nintendo DS commercials that feature the two-toned Crimson/Black version.

Yes, you read that right. Nintendo is going to be rolling out this new color with an advertising campaign that includes many female celebrities here in the USA.

Nintendogs DS Lite

For those who may notice that this particular color was available via the Nintendogs bundle you are correct. However, that one had a little paw print on it while this one does not.

Any bets on when the Metalic Gold Zelda DS Lite comes out as a stand alone model? I have the one with the Tri-Force on it and I like it.

For those who worry about the collector value of the originals, don't. These do not have the paw print in the corner so your Nintendogs one is now more valuable.

video games May 16th, 2008 by Josh L.

This being the first Devil May Cry game that I've ever played before (shocking, I know), I feel that my disappointment with the game must mostly be the result of my lack of experience with the franchise, although upon further reflection I suspect otherwise. Let's begin at the beginning, and focus on the game before I voice my gripes.

The Story--

At the beginning of the game, newcomer Nero hacks and slashes his way through streets swamped with demons that look like some hybrid Scyther/clown creatures from the Silent Hill universe. Like a rabid Velociraptor on crack cocaine, Nero blazes a gory trail of corpses on his way to his destination... the Opera House, a structure that conjures images of Byzantine architecture.

The building itself is really very sublime, and definitely has an air of the ethereal. I like the architecture in this game. But more on that later. In honor of the demonic deity Sparda, A ceremony is being hosted by the secretive theocratic oligarchy known as the Order of the Sword, his Holiness himself being the guest of honor.

Quite nonchalantly, Nero takes a seat right next to the game's love interest and resident damsel in distress, Kyrie-- who also just so happens to be the sister of His Holiness' right hand man. Quite abruptly, the main event, a little soliloquy compliments of the Order of the Sword's BMOC is cut short as stained glass shatters and a crimson flash darts from the rafters to the podium in the blink of an eye... yes, it's just who you think it is, and he's just assassinated Devil May Cry's equivalent of the Pope.

At this point, you actually get to play the game. Your skills are for the first time put to the test as you square off with Dante himself. He proves to be a worthy adversary... after finally whittling his health meter down to 0, the resulting cut scene makes it clear that Dante hardly broke a sweat. He exits the scene, and you become the proverbial cat in pursuit of the mouse.

Along the way, you find yourself embroiled in an intricate labyrinth of intrigue that's way more than you bargained for. There's much more to the Order of the Sword than they let on... as you progress, you delve further and further into the miserable little pile of secrets that the OotS was all along. But of course, you probably figured that much out...

Really, the story is quite predictable, and painfully typical. I won't ruin it for you, but the "twists" and "turns" of the game are really so boring that the whole thing is analogous to a roller coaster ride, where you can fully see and anticipate all that's coming. Though I would classify the game as a more of a mine cart trip before I would ever call it a roller coaster ride. Now, I hate to be "that guy" whose review is the lone outlier in a sea of critical acclaim and fangasms, but I really didn't find this game to be all that spectacular as a whole, and here's why.

The Gameplay--

Well, I guess that this is a rather bad choice for the first bullet-marked item to to appear after I pledged to explain just why it is I don't like the game, as the combat system is really quite superb. Combos, combos, combos! Yes, to master the game you must transcend blind button mashing and actually choreograph your moves with utmost care and consideration, an elaborate dance that demands near Force-like reflexes, for in the most heated rumbles even a split-second's lapse of attention will invariably result in C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!

This is an aspect of the game that I'm sure I was not able to really fully appreciate as I am really not privy to fighting games in the first place, but the fact that it squeezed some enjoyment out of me at all is testament to its greatness. Bottom line is, if the combat from the previous DMC games and their ilk is what you crave, you won't be disappointed by this fourth installment in the franchise.

On to the specifics, now-- you start out with a very... stripped-down moveset that at first may be represented (at least for the 360 version) by Y-Y-Y-Y (Red Queen [sword]), X-X-X-X-X-OHMYGODXXXXXXXXX!!!! (Blue Rose [pistol]), B (Devil Bringer [glowy gauntlet used to seize opponents a la the Hookshot or Grapple Beam, drawing them towards you]), rinse, wash, repeat. It doesn't take long, however, to accumulate a plethora of new moves, resulting in a mind-boggling amount of potential combo attacks. You're graded on just how masterfully you execute said chains. By avoiding harm and racking up the damage, you may rise from a "D" to "SSS."

New moves may be purchased with the "crystalized demon blood" that you amass from both fallen foes and the very, very destructible environments (you can collect the stuff upon smashing a wooden chair for Pete's sake) as opposed to heading to the local market (for all your demon slaying needs!), you instead make your purchases at the feet of large statues of bare-breasted, hourglass-brandishing cat women.

In addition to buying power-ups, you may also purchase health and magic restoration items, along with specialties such as "holy water", which severely damages all nearby enemies. Oh, holy water, how often you've saved me from such dire straits!

Now, how about some brief weapon diagnostics. Listed below are Nero's initial arms:

  • Red Queen- In classic Devil May Cry style, the game is not complete without the unbelievably humongous sword. You can squeeze the left trigger to rev it up, the sword's coloration changing to a fiery crimson color and increasing its power for a brief period of time.
  • Blue Rose- Nero's pistol. It's not too powerful... at least not at first. It doesn't fire very quickly either, and to be honest the weapon just seems useless compared to Dante's two guns. Quite underpowered.
  • Devil Bringer- This is a real multi-purpose... implement? Ability? The Devil Bringer is Dante's right hand, imbued with demon energy. It may be used in the hookshot fashion as described above, or also in a variety of other moves.

The Devil Bringer is important outside of battle, and is necessary to pull off certain maneuvers, like flinging yourself from floaty-glowing-orb to floaty-glowing-orb in order to reach high or distant places. Speaking of puzzles, the game is filled with them, but they're really quite un-necessary for the most part, and they really just come across as being half-arsed. Like, for instance, there's this one puzzle that's like a giant board game. You fling a hurl up in the air, and depending on how it lands a certain number of tiles are illuminated depending on the luck of the draw. Either it lands on a blank space, a beneficial space... or a "random battle" space. This game of chance was un-enjoyably drawn out, though it was rather un-enjoyable in the first place, as I am not privy to games of chance. Regardless, the whole thing was rather un-necessary, and just a taste of what was yet to come. Vanishing tile bridges, giant obstacle-demolishing spinning tops, floaty-glowing-orbs... none of it is very fun, especially considering the rather finicky, often fixed camera.

The Music--

While the environmental sound effects seem nice at first, one gets tired of the same old cling-clang-drip sounds of dark, dank dungeons. As for the combat music... I don't think that they could have chosen a worse industrial metal-slash-grindcore (as in grinding my ears with a cheese grater) wannabe song to play during every single battle. Even if that was my type of music, I'm quite sure that I would consider it an embarrassment to the genre, nebulous as said genre may be.

See, here's a little example of what I like to listen to... as I type this review, I'm listening to Ohta-San on the ukulele. I may lose myself in some Animal Collective later, or perhaps even fire up the ol' Sansui so I may dose off to a little Siamese Dream (in vinyl form!).

Here's a little sample of the battle music to whet your palette: if input = "fight" then do print "The time has come and so have I, I laugh last because you came to die. The damage, the pain subsides and I can see the fear clear when I look in your eyes. I'll never kneel and I'll never rest, you can tear the heart from my chest. I'll make you see what I do best I'll succeed as you breath your very last breath. Now I know how the angel fell, I know the tale and I know it too well. I'll make you wish you had a soul to sell, I'll strike you down and send you straight to hell. An army comes from deep within, beneath my soul beneath my skin. That is your ending i'm about to begin, my strength is pain and I'll never give in." loop.

The depth and thoughtfulness exhibited by the above lyrics are mirrored by the scripted dialogue contained in the cut scenes that are interspersed throughout the game seemingly for the sole purpose of breaking the transcendent awesomeness of battle.

What to expect from Nero: a tendency to swing moods from BAAAWWWW to IT'S ASS KICKING TIME so frequently and to such extremes that I've no doubt in my mind that his power stems from a kind of bi-polar mania rather than demons. His lines reflect such. Dante: Rightfully cocky quips peppered here and there. He's Dante. No more, no less. Kyrie: Ehhhhh... fuuuuuu... squeak... Nero!

The Graphics-- The graphics are beautiful, really. Absolutely gorgeous. Except for some of the shadow effects (the forest level bugged me out with the jaggy tree shadows and MOAR BLOOM), I really can't complain. The graphics in the cut scenes are pretty much the graphics in-game. Granted, just like most new-gen games, DMC4 does suffer from clay/seran wrap syndrome, but at least (almost)everything looks nice and clean. If there's one thing that I don't mourn regarding the previous generation systems, it's jaggies. If you really want a good look at the graphics, check out some trailers, as words really fail to do them justice.

Would I Recommend This Game?

It should be quite clear right now that DMC4 is not my cup of tea, and even if it were, there are just too many little (and big) annoyances, so many that they quite outweigh the enjoyable bits. I guess that if you're familiar with the series and sufficiently glued to the... story, you might want to try it out. But I really don't know. To the average gamer, I would not recommend this game.

video games May 14th, 2008 by HMTKSteve
Alone in the Dark

On June 24, 2008 Atari will be releasing the newest iteration in the Alone in the Dark series of games. The game will be released for the PC, Wii, Xbox360, PS2 and PS3 (release date to be determined later).

Alone in the Dark has been around for a long time. The first game in the series was published in 1992 for the PC by Infogrames. In 1994 Interplay ported that game to the 3DO.

This game will be the fifth in the series and rumors abound that it will also see a release on the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP.

The last game in the series, Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, was released in 2001. It is important to note that up until now every version of this game has been worked on by Infogrames. This new version is being created by Atari and Eden Games. Before you begin to wonder why that is I'll give you a very quick explanation: Infogrames owns a 51.2 percent stake in Atari and they have for many years.

In January of 2001 Infogrames (IESA) purchased Hasbro Interactive. By doing so they also acquired Microprose and Atari. In 2002 IESA also acquired the remaining 80% of game development studio Eden Games.

So, even though the game is not going to bear the name Infogrames it is still being developed by Infogrames.

Taking the fear to a new level, the next-gen Alone in the Dark features the macabre style of the series played with new gameplay mechanics and a broader-reaching, action-packed play style. Explore fully-interactive realtime worlds, interacting with physics and roaming the wide-open, fright-filled environments.

This next-gen Alone in the Dark is also built around a unique episodic game structure -- the story is split into a number of distinct 30-40 minute episodes, doled out one at a time as you play. Each time the player launches a saved game, the episode will begin with a video summary of the previous episode to quickly re-immerse the player in the story and removing the need to remember where they were or what they were doing. Every episode will close with a nail-biting cliff-hanger ending to rattle players’ nerves, and if the player is leaving the game a video teaser of the next episode will play to leave them wanting more.

Alone in the Dark

Games May 9th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

A few years ago I signed up for the affiliate program over at Funagain Games. For a while I was looking at how much money I had made in commissions and after a while of not making anything I forgot about it.

This morning, on a whim, I took a look and discovered I had earned about $30 worth of credit towards buying some games. Or should I say game.

Games are not cheap these days and the lower end of the good games starts at about $30. Funny how board games are in the same price range as video games!

So, as I'm looking over the site I start to ask myself, "what game should I get?"

The first question to ask is, "what games are already in Steve's collection?" The answer can be found over on Board Game Geek where I list my collection.

BGG has some cool widgets you can add to your site but when I tried they either did not work or I did not feel like taking the time to resize them properly.

So, please leave a comment with a game you think I might like.

Uncategorized May 8th, 2008 by HMTKSteve

Looking for a new computer?

How about a Laptop/Notebook PC?

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Restrictions: Only one discount may be applied per cart at checkout. Discount will appear at checkout once the eligible item has been added to the cart. The Home & Home Office site and offers contained herein valid only for end users and not for resellers and/or online auctions. Offers subject to change, not combinable with all other offers. Taxes, shipping, handling and other fees apply. Valid for new U.S. online purchases through the Dell Home Electronics and Accessories site and for phone orders of electronics and accessories purchased without a system only. Purchase limit of 5 items per order, but discount applies to only 1 item per cart. Limit of 5 items per customer please. Dell reserves right to cancel orders arising from pricing or other errors.

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Technology May 8th, 2008 by HMTKSteve
Verizon Navigator

Verizon is launching the VZ Navigator (version 4) in Florida today. The service allows customers in 75 cities nationally and all major Florida markets to access information about traffic incidents, obtain traffic updates and find detours. In addition, the new version of VZ Navigator shows gas station locations and their current pricing, and offers a 3D perspective view of maps, a movie and events finder, weather reports and forecasts.

Verizon Wireless’ VZ Navigator service is a location-based service (LBS) application that utilizes GPS technology and real-time information feeds. It is a custom application that you download onto your Blackberry.

    The new version of VZ Navigator offers customers the following features:

    VZ Navigator Traffic Report
  • Traffic Integration – Customers can access routes that are calculated using both historical and real-time reported traffic information. Historical information allows customers to see on average whether the traffic is impacted by traffic lights, heavy traffic or school zones.

    Incident and flow information tells customers how traffic is flowing and includes details about reported accidents, disabled vehicles and congestion. VZ Navigator’s historical data covers over 750,000 miles of roads in 48 states. The traffic tracking center continually monitors conditions along the customers’ routes, sending proactive alerts to drivers about conditions ahead of them on their chosen routes. Detour options allow users to compare estimated times of arrival and conditions before selecting a new route.

  • Gas Finder – Provides customers with information on the location of gas stations close to their physical locations and even provides gas prices at many gas stations in the area. Once a customer selects a station, VZ Navigator can also provide turn-by-turn directions to the selected gas station.

    VZ Navigator Gas Finder

  • Local Movies and Events – Customers can now search for show times, critics’ ratings and other details for movies, concerts, plays, sporting events and other social events based on the physical location of their phones.

    VZ Navigator 3D
  • 3D Perspective View – Enhances navigation by displaying maps from angles customers would see through car windshields, making it easier to visualize turn-by-turn directions.

  • Weather – Provides current weather conditions and forecasts based on the physical location of the customer’s phone without manually inputting an address.

VZ Navigator (Version 4) is available today for $9.99 for unlimited monthly access or $2.99 for one-day use on select Get It Now®-enabled phones in the Get Going section under Travel & Guides or Featured Apps. Airtime or megabyte charges and specific terms of use apply when browsing, downloading and using the application. Traffic integration is only available in certain areas.

Steve's Thoughts

I think the traffic information and gas prices is awesome. Those two things are going to be a great selling point and they nicely counter some of the features that at&t and Apple have included with the iPhone.

I'm not so sure about the movie information. I can't say I've ever been in the car, heading to a movie theatre, without first knowing what movie I intend to see.

The 3D perspective mapping is also great. It's not going to show you real life buildings but it does help you get your bearings and find out if some foolish engineer put a left-side off ramp on the highway for that exit coming up. I don't know how many times I have been screwed up by exit ramps being on the wrong side of the highway!

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