“Wanna Watch Me Beat Super Mario 3D World?”

He got all the green stars.  He got all the gold flags and all the stamps in all the other levels.  Now all that was left was to complete the ultimate platformer level in the secret, final “Crown World” in Super Mario 3D World.  My boyfriend had been at it for weeks; you had to essentially commit the level to muscle memory and time everything just so, or you fall to your doom and die.  You have to have full understanding of how long and how far and how fast your character (Mario, in his case) jumps and runs…because that changes everything.

My boyfriend played the final level A LOT.  He even grabbed hundreds of lives to have near-infinite tries:

…And has a specific way to hold the GamePad when his timing starts getting too rushed:

The last time I saw him try to clear this level, he could only get up to the 2nd area and would curse incessantly at the TV with every death.  And then, just the other night, this transpired…

BOYFRIEND: “After playing this Mario level like 475 times, I don’t get pissed anymore.  I just take the failure and brush it off.”

ME: “Really?  No more cursing?”

BOYFRIEND: “Nah, I’m over it.”

He played the level, screwed up, and died.


I stared at him.

BOYFRIEND: “….I think my testosterone goes up when I’m around you….”

Testosterone or Pride?  Hahaha.  This isn’t the first time something like this has happened!  I guess it’s cute, he was trying to show off his skills.  About 50 lives later…he really did beat the level, for the first time ever!  We’ve been playing it together since then, going through all the levels and clearing them with every character.  It’s pretty fun, but I’m new to the whole 3D-genre of Mario…soooo I’m not accustomed to having this squat-jump thing yet.  He tells me it’s from the N64 Mario game, which is a console I completely skipped over while growing up :(  Why couldn’t we be friends in middle school!


First Impressions/Now Playing: Bravely Default

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: N. American demo is out now; full game set to release February 7, 2014.

The first thing you need to know about this game is that Bravely Default is only a good game if you like JRPGs.

The second thing you need to know is that it’s the perfect JRPG.
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A Look Back on 2013

Click for Hi-Res on Flickr.

I don’t doubt I’m alone in thinking this…2013 was a LONG year!  It feels like a decade since I wrote my half-year retrospective on how 2013 was going so far – and unfortunately, a lot of what I had to write was negative.  I was physically sick, and that was emotionally wearing on me in an extreme way.  But the year came to a close, and I’m glad to say it was a happy end to what was going to be a sucky year.

On the bright side to being sick in 2013, I changed my diet and got healthy. Diets are hard to change, and they’re ongoing projects.  I’ll never be done with my diet, but now that I’m a year in and healthy again, I don’t have to be as strict.  Physical pain is a good motivator to making better food choices!  I learned to love homemade yogurt, I learned to live without or replace pasta with vegetables….I learned to eat well and boost my immune system.  I learned a LOT about how the human body works from reading tons of books and articles about nutrition and physiology.

I’m going to sum up some other great things about 2013:
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Excited For: Super Mario World 3D World

Platform: Wii U
Release Date: 2013 Nov. 22

The end of 2013 is shaping up to be a huge event for Nintendo – tons of hyped up, first party games are getting released, “killer app” type games that could finally move Wii U consoles.  If a remake of an 11 year old Zelda game can move consoles, imagine what it’ll be like when we finally get a GOOD Mario game on the Wii U??  I played New Super Mario Bros. U while housesitting this summer, and was NOT a fan.  Something about that game was missing soul….the levels felt the same as they ever were in any Super Mario game, but nothing about it felt fresh.  The lack of a vibrant world map really disappointed, made it feel small and clinical, and what really killed it was the terrible multiplayer!  I don’t think this game can even be considered “multiplayer”.  Nintendo is a company that always encouraged awesome multiplayer, especially encouraging having your friend sit right next to you instead of off in their own house, miles away, playing online.  How many of us remember carrying a GameCube by its handle and heading to a friend’s party?  How many of us remember the fun of a 4 person split-screen battle in N64’s GoldenEye?

The most exciting thing for me with Super Mario 3D World is the simultaneous multiplayer!!!  I have been wracking my brain trying to find co-op games that me and my boyfriend can play together, but in this day and age…with all our technology….sometimes it feels like the video game world is moving away from gaming together.  As in, right physically next to each other.  Starcraft and Diablo kinda killed that too with their exclusion of LAN capabilities.  I know there’s a site called Co-Optimus, a much-needed database of cooperative video games.  But even browsing through their “couch co-op” section, I’m hard-pressed to find something that sounds interesting. The majority of PS3 titles are first person shooters that even my boyfriend doesn’t care about.  Having Peach, Toad, Luigi, and Mario playing all at once brings back a lot of fond Mario Kart and Super Mario Advance memories.

Aside from multiplayer, pretty much everything about the gameplay is also awesome, haha!  The new transparent tubes you can collect and place around the game, the cat suit that lets you climb (I find it hilarious how creepy Mario looks in it), the shiro tanuki suit you can get if you beat a level, if my Japanese skills are holding up, which sorta looks like you have god-like star effects.  I hear the levels are rather short, but there are so many options and competitive ways to play it, Super Mario 3D World is shaping up to be a game with huge replay value.  As expected from Nintendo…fingers crossed this game and the new handheld Zelda will get the company back on the ball, financially.

Also check out Polygon’s interview with Miyamoto over Super Mario 3D World.

Now Playing: PokoPang!

Platform: mobile (iPhone)

“Is PokoPang as popular in the States as it is here?” Asked my friend who lives in Singapore. I’ve never heard of it, but PokoPang is a mobile puzzle game you can download through LINE chat.

Curious, I downloaded it, and now I can’t stop playing. I’m terrible at it, but there’s something about all the flashiness, cuteness, and colors that I find indescribably addicting. You get five lives (clovers) to play in the game, which recharges over time…or your friends can send you another clover. Leveling up will completely fill your clovers too – a small thing that makes PokoPang easier to play than Candy Crush. Like Candy Crush, you do get prompted to buy power ups with real money, but there are free ways to get those too (playing 15 times yields a free, random power up).  You don’t need that much patience to play this game for free, even if you have no friends (I only have 1 friend playing this game).  The clovers come pretty easily.

All you do is drag your finger to connect 3 or more same-colored dots; if you don’t take too much time between successful connections, you rack up a combo that multiplies your points. You’ll also get bombs (to clear a whole bunch of dots) and rainbows (clear one kind of color at random) that are pretty key to getting a good score…aside from how fast you swipe your finger. Continue reading

Now Playing: Wind Waker HD, Hero Mode!

It’s even prettier in person, but attracts dust like CRAZY! Fresh out of the box, it’s already got stuff stuck to it!

After months of going back and forth on it, my boyfriend finally broke down.  We went to Gamestop, first thing after the dog park, and waited for GameStop to open.  It took a couple of hours to set everything up and even download the game – why was it not preloaded?! – but finally, it’s here…The Legend of Zelda Limited Edition Wii U!!  And the Wind Waker HD remake!  With pretty much nothing else of note on the Wii U till the end of the year, this remake is pretty much the ONLY thing moving Wii U units right now.  I’m somewhat worried about Nintendo, but feel pretty sure that by this time next year, things should be looking good for them.  They’ve always relied on top quality, polished 1st party games to sell consoles.

Even though I owned a GameCube (possibly the best console ever…I loved how portable it was!), I NEVER played Wind Waker before….After Ocarina of Time (which I played on GC because I never had an N64), the series just stopped for me.  I can’t even justify it at all, except with a dumb excuse of being cheap.  I hate buying games when I don’t have time to play them anymore, or anyone to play with.

Anyway, the new remake is absolutely BEAUTIFUL….some aspects of it no longer hold strictly to the cel-shaded look of the original version, but I’ve briefly tried the original out on Dolphin and the beautification was a welcome improvement.  Nothing about it looks dated, despite the game itself being 11 years old!!!  The remake also comes with “Hero Mode” – you take twice the damage and there are NO HEART REFILLS.  Meaning I can’t cut grass to heal myself, but I still can buy red potions to restore health.  They are, of course, pretty rare…especially in the beginning of the game.  Either that or I’m too poor (a rich person in the Zelda universe has lots of empty bottles!).

Against my boyfriend’s warnings, I decided to play in Hero Mode!  Why?  Because I like struggling in games.  I don’t really know what I could attribute it to.  One could try to justify it and say it’s because I played a lot of Starcraft and you simply have to accept you will lose at least half the matches you ever play in it.  Even in The Sims, I make everyone live in extreme squalor for as long as possible, taking sleep shifts to share beds.  Not to mention I’m also a long-time fan of the Fire Emblem series, which is another game where you’ll die 50 times an hour.  I like it though.  I like the struggle, I like feeling as if I’ve overcome things…I like feeling a CHALLENGE.  When I play games like Mario & Luigi: Dreamteam, or Luigi’s Mansion 2, I get really disappointed before the halfway point because it’s too damn easy.  It still takes me a while to complete these games, given that Nintendo is great about supplying content…but they’re just pretty brainless to play.  There’s no strategy and barely any gaming skill required to complete them.  Just time.  Even though I died a lot, it felt great to figure out how to defeat each enemy and clear an area in 2 minutes, when the first attempt took me 10 minutes.  I’m absolutely loving the challenge of Hero Mode.  You can still switch the difficulty at the Title Menu, however I’m hoping I never give in to that temptation.  Might happen during a boss fight…

This has all just gotten me even more hyped up for the Symphony of the Goddess concert coming up this November 1st!  It’s 4 movements comprised of songs from the Zelda series, played by a live orchestra….I went to the first version of it last year, and this year is supposed to be slightly different.  But who am I kidding?  Even if it was EXACTLY THE SAME I still would have bought tickets!  What’s gonna be cool this time around is I’ll be going with a boyfriend who is also totally in love with Zelda :)  More so than I am, since he’s played both the old and new ones, and I just have the old ones in my nostalgia bank.

Mauser & Max

Max takes a Mauser C96 to the range, instead of his usual Luger. Took maybe 20 minutes to draw it all, with most time spent on the gun, and wow….I can’t draw guns!!!  Or other inanimate, hard surface objects.  I’ve found a new thing to work on; typically I’m drawing way too many characters instead of things, and it’s not good to be so limited.

I stayed up really late last night to watch the Pokemon: The Origin 4 episode series that just aired in Japan this week.  Late to work today. Sleep schedule all messed up.  BUT SO WORTH IT.  It’s so clear now that Game Freaks is trying to get the old players back; they bridged the story from the classic Red & Blue games over to Pokemon X/Y with Mega Evolutions!  Might write up more thoughts later, gotta get back to work!  I’m also so very glad I can still understand Japanese!

Grand Theft Auto V is the Best Open World Game Ever

It’s a little strange to admit, since the Fantasy genre was such a huge part of my childhood.  After growing up with series like Dragon Lance, Forgotten Realms, and reading the manuals and monster compendiums of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, you’d think I would have sacrificed my life to a game like Skyrim by now.  I tried to like games in The Elder Scrolls series, but nothing could drag me in.  The worlds were vast, yes, but there was so much nothing between towns, with barely any monsters to fight on the road to keep things interesting.  Also, the severe racism of the denizens of Morrowind tired me out.  These kinds of games are supposed to be escapist paradises, but when you already deal with bigotry in real life you don’t really wanna come home to it too.  I thought I’d love playing a bipedal talking tiger lady.  I thought I’d love wearing armor and cutting through the medieval countryside.  I thought it’d be fun to play with magic and grow my skills – the leveling system was something of particular interest to me.  In theory, I completely loved it.  But in reality, it meant I never ran, only jumped (to up my acrobatics) or stalked (to enhance my sneaking ability).  This, no doubt, made traversing the world even less enjoyable, via self-sabotage.

I thought a medieval fantasy open world of elves, dwarves, cats, and magic would be my thing.  I know someone who is still playing Skyrim every night, even though it’s been 2 years.  But it wasn’t, and neither was the empty vastness of Fallout 3 (however I enjoyed that a whole bunch).

My true love in open world games is GRAND THEFT AUTO.

Me and that series, we have a history together.  It was the game of choice at sleepovers, right alongside Resident Evil 2 and the first Diablo.  I can’t tell you how many hours I spent in GTA III, stealing cars for money, watching that crane swing them away at the junkyard, going on killing sprees with a flamethrower.  I find it funny that despite my movies and reading tastes heavily leaning towards the Fantasy genre, my favorite open world setting is the present day urban life.  I don’t always kill people, in fact I really suck at it.  I didn’t have this problem in GTA IV, but here in the fifth iteration, the crosshair is just a tiny white dot on the screen.  Once you’re driving in the daylight and that thing is pointed at the sky, it blends in completely and I can’t see where I’m aiming….it becomes impossible for me.  I know others don’t have this problem….my boyfriend shoots and drives just fine.  I can’t so I just ram people with my car.  Yes, kids, the answer to having bad aim is to smash more things :)

I’m really enjoying all the customizations I can do, the dressing up, the weirdo characters you meet, even the random glitches and how you yourself falls down like a ragdoll at such inopportune times.  The problem with The Elder Scrolls games is they take themselves too seriously – Grand Theft Auto‘s writing is so satirical, so witty and funny, it’s pure relief at the end of a long work day.  I love how it doesn’t take itself seriously in anything that happens. Everything is pure fun.

I can’t stop playing.  I go to work and all I think about is this game.  I see cars on the street and wonder which one do I wanna boost for today’s commute.  I think about Chop, but not in a good way.  He sure is cute in the game, I’ve always wanted a rottweiler.  But the iFruit app is a piece of crap!  It keeps telling me my wireless/data connection has been lost, when I have a strong signal for everything.  Anything I do, like logging in or buying stuff, has to be done at least 3 times because it just won’t send the order.  Chop looks and moves retardedly and all he does is send notifications to my phone saying he’s unhappy.  At least real dogs are cute and you get to play with them.  This dog’s mini games are shoddy and simply not fun.


Time to unpause the game and get back to the game!!

[Game Review] Plants VS Zombies 2: It’s About Time

It’s rare for me to get addicted to mobile games, and I had a lot of negative preconceptions about the sequel to Plants VS Zombies.  I loved the first game, like millions of other people in the world, and early articles about the new game were less than stellar.  Kotaku published an article about how “Chinese Gamers Say Plants Versus Zombies 2 is Ripping Them Off”.  The backstory behind this is quite simple: Chinese are notorious for pirating games, and one of the better (for the publisher/devs) ways to circumvent that is to use a “Free to Play” model.  That means it’s free to download the game, it’s free to play, but you will be encouraged to spend real money to buy things in the game.  So in that sense, pirating would only serve as free advertising (although it wouldn’t really be pirating anymore because the game itself is free!)  The more players they have the more potential customers they have.

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I Hope the 3DS SpotPass Update Is Optional

…Or that they at least don’t implement it in NYC.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a brief explanation.  Every Nintendo 3DS comes with a few apps on, like a Friends List, SwapNote (for sending drawings to each other), things like that.  There’s a switch on the righthand side of the 3DS which, when on, will activate StreetPass.  You leave your 3DS on in sleep mode in your bag, and it will pick up the ‘tags’ of fellow 3DS owners who are also broadcasting a StreetPass signal.  It’s really fun – when you pass someone within range, it almost instantly makes a soft noise.  The LED on the outside hinge of your console turns a minty green.  It’s very exciting and strangely addicting – each Mii you collect goes to your “Mii Plaza”, where you can collect puzzle pieces from them, gain different hats to put on your own Mii, and you use them as “heros” for a single turn in a little RPG-style Mii game.

Now, some websites like Kotaku are reporting that StreetPass is going to get an overhaul in the West (meaning the US and Europe).  You can read it for more info, but here’s the gist:

“…Nintendo plans to implement a new framework via a system update for the 3DS, which will allow StreetPass communication to take place indirectly, via so-called StreetPass relay stations—basically, online servers accessed through public Wi-Fi access points. This way, 3DS consoles communicate with and leave their game data on a server instead of interacting directly with another console, not only increasing the chances of the data being received by another 3DS, but also allowing the same data to be received by multiple consoles instead of just one.”

Now here’s the thing.  StreetPass is awesome in areas where people live in high density.  By that I mean cities…places where people actually walk around, where you don’t sequester yourself in a car, away from other humans.  This is great news for most of the US, most of Canada, and it’s clear to see why Nintendo would want to overhaul their system to benefit those people.  But I really hope this is optional, and it sounds at the moment like that is a possibility.  I’m aware that places like New York and Seattle are in the extreme minority in the US.

I’ve only just started gathering Miis through StreetPass recently.  Usually I would keep the switch off in an attempt to save power, but my 3DS XL’s battery life is actually so good that I don’t have to worry about that.  Living in NYC like I do, I get at least 1 person per commute. So that’s about two people a day, minimum.  It’s fun and exciting to hop on to the train and think, who else here has a 3DS, squirreled away in their bag?  I’m the only one with it actually out, playing in the morning.  But clearly tons of people have it in their bags, since I keep getting new Miis.  Oh and imagine conventions!  A friend of mine bragged recently about how he got 300 new Miis during his first day at PAX East.  Exciting :D

I saw there are other commentors from big cities that are hoping this is optional too, on that Kotaku article.  I hope so as well.  Don’t take this fun excitement from us, Nintendo!  Not from places that are similar to Tokyo in terms of density, and have no problem with the fun way StreetPass works.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as the saying goes.  It ain’t broke in New York.  It’s just not as exciting when it’s not random.  Where’s the fun in simply accessing a server while I’m at home to get a new wave of Miis in my Plaza?  I love guessing where it’s coming from, especially since some people look like their Miis.

The most exciting one yet was actually from today’s commute home.  I passed a tall, skinny Asian guy while exiting my train station.  Just as we crossed each other, the 3DS in my hands beeped softly; a familiar mint-green light glowed on. The Mii is a PERFECT doppleganger for my BOSS at work!

I took tons of pictures and, naturally, texted them all to him and our mutual friends.  This face he’s making makes me crack up every time.

Compared with the guy in the back: