Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tales of Eternia: the great craymel

When I set my challenges this week, I forgot that I only had one day of work remaining before Christmas. Oops.

Luckily, though, I managed to reach the great craymel on the train this morning, after long protracted fights through a forest. What a stuck-up bitch she is, as well. After looking down her nose at us, she decides that she'll only talk to us if we fight her.

A very hard fight, in fact, which I lost. I'll have to try again, but fear it may need a slew of levelling-up first.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Bongo Bongo


I finally managed to reach the boss at the end of the Shadow Temple, with very little health remaining. He is really annoying - he's a big invisible eye and two disembodied hands, and the whole battle takes place on a drum which means that Link keeps getting thrown up in the air and uncontrollable. I was hoping that using the iron boots would stop this, but it doesn't.

I've worked out that I've got to use the lens of truth to see the eye, and hit the hands with arrows to disable them temporarily. But the thing is that I've only got three hearts, and one hit kills me.

I've died quite a few times and every time there's a long journey to get back to the boss - involving going on a River-Stix-like boat and fighting skeletons. Along the way there are hearts up on ledges but I can't work out how to get them. There are no other things that help me regain health. So every time, one hit inside the boss room and I die.

I hope I can beat him soon or I feel I might just not be bothered.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 20/12/2006

I set myself five challenges last week and completed them all. Very pleasing.

I'm a bit stuck now, though, because my new commuting game is Tales of Eternia, and that doesn't really lend itself to setting challenges, since I have no idea how far anything is off ...

Find the great craymel in Tales of Eternia.

Complete the shadow dungeon in Ocarina of Time.

Get another three medals in Wii Sports training mode.

Complete the fourth world in Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tales of Eternia: setting off

I've not been grabbed by this yet, and I've played it a fair bit. Little things are annoying me:
  • A lot of the game works in an isometric style, but it's really difficult to use the diagonals on a PSP d-pad
  • Random enemy encounters are far too frequent
  • The characters aren't overly likable and the translation's a bit poor
  • The story's really confusing, with far too much to take in at once
  • The combat system seems really complex but just pressing X lots of times seems to work almost as well
Having said all that, I am interested to know what happens. So far I've found a girl who fell from the sky and speaks a strange language; gone to the local university to meet an old friend who might be able to speak to her; found out he had to use a dictionary to do so; and gone through a tunnel to a whole new continent.

The graphical style's a bit odd - the backgrounds of specific areas are lovely, but the character sprites and overworld are ropey. I don't really like the characters' looks either. The girl, Farah, looks really frumpy.

Wii Sports: tennis training

No time for Zelda last night, but I did get the opportunity to play Wii Sports for quarter of an hour. My fitness age seems to have settled at 33, which is 4 years older than me. I think I'm let down by my baseball hitting.

I also played the tennis training a bit, including the last of the three games. In this game, you have to hit a target painted on the wall, which is pretty tricky once the targets are anything like off-centre since you end up running from one side of the court to the other. My highest score is seven. Pathetic!

Field Commander: online doesn't work

That is to say, it works technically, just not as a game type.

I played two games last night while watching TV. Well, I played a bit of two games. It's just too slow and isn't engaging enough for an online game. When you play Advance Wars against a human, they're right next to you, and you can see them working away at their turn. With Field Commander online you're left wondering if they're thinking about their move, or whether they're actually still there.

A play-by-email game like Naked War would work fine for Advance Wars online, but the real-time model is just too soulless. I doubt I'll be playing it again.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: the shadow temple

Hmm, what to label this as? It's an N64 game, on a GameCube disc, being played on the Wii. How confusing.

I spent ages trying to work out where to go next. Navi kept on telling me to go and talk to someone who knew about the sages. I guessed this was Sheik, but had no idea where to find her. I ran around the whole world, and finally went into Kakariko Village where Sheik told me that something was hidden at the bottom of the well. Very cool cutscene, actually - the village was on fire, and sheik was grabbed by a shadow and thrown around. Anyway, I went down the well and there was nothing there.

After a bit more exploration, I went into the windmill, and the man in there told me he was all cross because of what happened seven years previously, when a young boy with an ocarina caused something to happen. I took out my ocarina and he taught me a stormy song. I then went back in time, went to the windmill again, and played the song. A storm started and all the water drained out of the well. Ah-ha!

Down in the well I found myself in a room with no exit other than the way I came in. Navi kept on highlighting a skeleton at the end of the room, and said that the spirits were telling me to get an eye of truth. All very well, but getting out of the room would help first. Purely by chance (I was trying to attach the skeleton) I found out that the wall at the end of the room wasn't actually real, and I could just walk through it.

This then led me to a mini-dungeon, where I got a magnifying glass thing which shows me the truth - with disappearing walls and floors and chests which are there but aren't visible. I actually really enjoyed this cavern, because it offered quite a lot of exploration to find all its secrets, but was a nice small manageable size.

The shadow temple, my next port of call, is much larger, however. I've got the map and have explored around three quarters of the dungeon, it seems, and while there's no particularly taxing puzzles other than the use of the lens of truth, it's just going on for a long time. Hopefully I'll complete it tonight.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wii Sports: training mode

The bowling mode which adds a new row of pins each time is superb. I can't get that many strikes, but enough pins fall each time to make me think it's possible.

I'm also starting to learn how to place my shots in tennis. There's a training game in which you must hit the ball into a gate which shrinks and moves over time. I did quite well at that.

I didn't do well at baseball - I just can't hit home runs consistently. I'm getting better at pitching, though.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz: crowning glory

For the first world, I've got a crown above the world number. I've completed worlds two and three but I have no such crown. I wonder why.

The game works so well with the remote. It's starting to get a little more tricky now, but thankfully there's been no sign of the switch gimmicks from Super Monkey Ball 2.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Field Commander: completed!

The last mission turned out to be not so hard after all. It helps that the computer is such a wuss, running away as soon as any of its units get damaged, meaning I could just steamroller my way across the map and destroy the weather machine with no hassle.

The ending sequence was dire, though. A few bits of congratulatory text but it all seemed to be a reluctant "well done". Then the boss of ATLUS appeared, and I couldn't see his face, and he told me about all the other things that needed sorting. But I wasn't going to be involved, even though I'd just been promoted.


Still, overall it was quite an enjoyable game, but nowhere near as good as Advance Wars.

Rayman Raving Rabbids: the first four days

I'm into uncharted territory now. I'd played most of the first four days of Rayman Raving Rabbids during the Wiikend, but that was on John's machine and we hadn't copied the save. So, I've had to go through the first four days again, this time completing it all myself.

Strangely, I've had no problems yet at all, with only two games requiring me to replay them. When Kieron and I were playing in turns, some games had us stumped - particularly the worm-pulling, the bunny minecart launching, and the guiding a bunny around a maze without touching the sides. I did the last of these on my second go at it (with 4 seconds to spare!) and the first two on my first go.

I've now unlocked three of the on-rails 'lightgun' sections. The last one, set on a train, is excellent.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 13/12/2006

I did get a couple of soul meteos, by the way, but I've not spent them yet.

Get a high score in the 100 meteos time attack mode.

Get four medals (at least bronze) in the training mode of Wii Sports.

Complete the first four days of Rayman Raving Rabbids.

Complete the first three worlds of Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz.

Complete Field Commander.

Field Commander: they got away, again

I'm growing increasingly tired of the storyline of this game. At the end of every mission, you're told that you did really well, but, oh dear, they got away, we'll have to follow them. Yawn indeed.

The mission I finished this morning was great, though. It was another mission in which I had to destroy two transports before they escaped the map. I started with very few units, a long way from any factories ports or airports, and the enemy had a huge number of units. Corvettes, gunships, submarines, you name it.

Hilariously, however, with me positioning my units just out of reach of the enemy, they didn't bother to attack and instead just sent their two transports forward alone, within striking distance of my units. Two turns later, they both sank after a barrage of guns.

I think I'm now onto the final mission. It looks hard.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Meteos: soul meteos

I've been trying to work out how you get soul meteos, and I think now that you only get an opportunity to get them when you're battling the planet Meteo at the end of a story mode game. So that's what I'll be doing on the train tonight. It's pretty simple to complete the first variation of the story mode, although I almost always lose one life on the way.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A great wiikend part 2: using the console

(this article has been posted at a later date)

The Wii is just amazing. It took literally no time at all to work out how to use this new controller, with the pointing and selecting just coming completely naturally. True, to start with the pointer's a bit jerky, but after a few seconds you stop fighting it and it becomes just an extension of your hand, pointing. Creating Miis was fun in itself, but once we were playing Wii Bowling, with John's girlfriend watching both from the sofa and from the back of the lanes, it became something more. More intimate, more personalised? Something like that.

Wii Sports really is the best launch game ever. It shows exactly how the controller can be used, and while each of the games is limited, it paves the way for more extravagant and elaborate simulations at a later date. We had huge amounts of fun playing the five games, even if we ached afterwards.

Wii Play is also pretty good. It effectively costs £5, but gives a great overview of how the controls work, taking you through from pointing to motion sensing to moving in three dimensions. Again, the Miis work really well within the game.

What else did we play? Rayman Raving Rabbids performs the heinous crime of requiring you to unlock the multiplayer games in single player mode first. We therefore only played a few of these games, but they are generally really good. The characterisation is wonderful, too - really funny and well thought-out.

Super Monkey Ball works really well, with tilting the remote tilting the stage. It's a bit more difficult than the original, since you don't have a forward lock (from the octagonal gate on the GameCube controller) or automatic centering. The minigames are a bit hit and miss, but one had us in absolute hysterics - 'red light, green light'. You must wave the remotes up and down in order to make you monkey run to the end of the stage. However, if the monkey at the end turns around, you must hold your remotes absolutely still until they hide again. I mean absolutely still. Not easy when Kieron nudges you, and then you can't stop laughing which means you can' hold the controller still at all. It took us 15 minutes to clear one stage. Priceless.

Finally, Red Steel is surprisingly good in multiplayer. It took a few games to get used to the controls, but after they clicked then it became really good fun. Graham beat us all, repeatedly.

This really is great.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A great wiikend part 1: buying the console

(this article has been posted at a later date)

John, Kieron and I joined a queue outside HMV's back entrance at around half eight on Thursday evening. We played some Mario Kart, including a random Dan we were standing next to in the queue. Needless to say, I won. I think.

At around half nine, they started to issue people in the queue with wristbands. The majority of the queue was formed of people who hadn't preordered, and in fact we were the first ones there who already had a guaranteed Wii. We got special silver wristbands (those given to non-preorders were white) - in fact, John got wristband number 1. After getting a wristband, we were free to go and come back by half ten - but sod that, we went straight around to the front and got into the proper queue. We were in a pretty good position - around 50 from the front.

We were supposed to be in this queue until eleven, when they would let us all into the store for a party and Wii celebration. The queue was filmed and photographed quite a bit, but mainly focussing on a group of 20-somethings a little bit ahead of us who couldn't string four coherent words together. At least it meant we didn't have to answer any of the journalists' idiotic questions. Apparently, London is a long way from London.

Eleven came and went.

At half eleven, a white bus arrived and the celebrities - Pat Cash, Ian Wright, Nell McAndrew and Ricky Hatten - got off and went inside, after being photographed lots. In fact, Nell wasn't due to be there and it was actually meant to be someone else, but obviously she was available to fill in when the other person called in sick or something.

Finally at 11:40 they started to let us in, and they filtered us into the rows between the CD racks. Once we were in these rows, they put some footage up on the big screen above the stage, and people started to try to push down the rows to get closer to the front. They tried, but they didn't manage it. Kieron, John and I can make a pretty effective barrier.

The celebrities played some tennis and boxing, but it was all evidently rushed because they were late. They had a few words with the person who was at the front of the queue, then took him over to buy his Wii, and left the rest of us behind.

Finally, 15 minutes later, they started to let some of us go over to the tills. About 10 at a time, every 10 minutes. It was therefore around 12:45 when I was finally asked what I wanted. A Wii, Zelda, Monkey Ball, Rayman, Wii Play and a nunchuk, please. They were doing a special deal meaning that the Wii plus three games and an SD card was £25 less than just the Wii and three games, so I took that. And I got one of the very limited edition Zelda tins. Only 200 ever made, and 3 of them are in our hands.

The organisation was OK, if a little sterile. Security was doing their best to stop queue jumpers, but there were still some around and what with the queue being 3 people across there was a bit of ambiguity to the ordering. When we got to the tills there was only one person running around assembling the orders, which seemed a bit daft, with six tills open. Still, at least we were early in the queue. I can't see them having finished before 4 in the morning.

We got to my car by 1:05, then drove up to Cambridge, to John's house. To bed? You must be joking. We all opened our Wiis at the same time and marvelled at the tiny size of the console, the loveliness of the remote, and the stylishness of the stand. John set his up, and turned it on. He created his Mii, then Kieron replaced John's console with his and created his Mii so that it was based on the correct Wii. I repeated this with my console. Then John put his Wii back in the stand, and we loaded up Wii Sports.

Tennis - amazing fun.
Bowling - great but Kieron's just too good.
Golf - Really difficult to get the power right, but it works well.
Baseball - possibly the best game there, and it's really satisfying to hit a home run.
Boxing - absolutely knackering but great.

By this time it was six in the morning. We went to bed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wii in nine and a half hours

I'm going to the official Nintendo launch party at HMV on Oxford Street tonight, along with Kieron and John. It starts at 11 and we'll be buying our consoles at midnight.

John's taking his camera so hopefully I'll have pictures to stick on here at some point. But not tomorrow, since we're going to be playing all day.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Midweek Challenges - 06/12/2006

Not many challenges this week. Because on Thursday night, I'm getting my Wii.

Gain two more soul meteos in Meteos.

Complete two more levels of Field Commander.

Meteos: fixed

It works again!

I played a bit on the train last night and this morning. It's not easy with the sun on the screen.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: the water temple

That took a long time.

Amusingly, both of my predictions came true. I was expecting either an ice dungeon or a water dungeon, but instead I got both.

On my hunch, I went to the zora's place and found it all frozen. Even the king was frozen solid in a block of red ice. I went into the tunnel behind him and jumped across some icebergs into a cave.

The ice cavern wasn't very large, and there wasn't really an end-of-dungeon boss as such (there was just a white wolf thing, who died very quickly and easily). It was quite a clever dungeon, though, with rooms which were locked until five silver rupees were collected, and a clever block-pushing puzzle where the block slid on ice until it hit a wall or pillar. A lot of the level was blocked by red ice, and there was a blue flame which Navi hinted would be useful. It took me a while to work out that you could capture the blue flame in a bottle and then release it near the ice.

After beating the wolf, I got a pair of iron boots, which make you walk very slowly but also let you walk underwater. Which would be great if you could breathe.

I got back to the king and realised that I hadn't refilled my bottles with blue fire, so I had to go all the way back and capture some more, before going and thawing out the king. He gave me a blue tunic, which lets me breathe underwater. Evidently nobody's heard of an aqualung in Hyrule.

The king also told me that Princess Ruto had been saved by Sheik, and had gone to the water temple to defeat the baddie there and thaw out the whole of Zoras' Domain. I took this as a hint and played the song that Sheik taught me to warp to the water temple.

I arrived on a little island with a tree and a plaque, which said something like "when the lake is full, shoot the rising sun". The lake wasn't full, it was drained and muddy. After a bit of exploration I found a door underwater at the base of the island I was on; I equipped the iron boots and blue tunic and went down to it. It was locked.

Luckily, I had my hookshot equipped and could see that it was usable, unlike the other weapons I was carrying. I hit the switch above the door and it opened. And so I entered the water temple.

To get through the water temple took me four hours. Some of the puzzles were really hard, and some were obvious but just required a lot of backtracking. The decreased mobility underwater meant I became very low on health on more than one occasion, and I did die once when I got caught in a corridor with some horrible oyster-like enemies.

Half way through you come to this seemingly endless room with no walls, but with another door on the other side. I ran across the room to the other door, and it was locked. After exploring a bit, I noticed that I no longer had a reflection on the ground, unlike everything else. My reflection, in fact, turned out to have stayed on the central island, and proceeded to fight me. A few hits with the hammer and he died, opening the doors.

After such a long dungeon, I was rather disappointed to be given only an extended hookshot, instead of a new toy.

After getting the longshot, it took me ages to find the boss key, and then ages to get to the boss. Luckily I'd found the map and the compass, or I reckon I'd still be there. The boss was mean - a big water thing with a floating nucleus - and it took me a while to work out that I had to hook the nucleus out of the water and then hit it. It did kill me once, but luckily I'd captured a fairy in a bottle and it revived me.

After killing the boss, I was transported to the Sacred Realm again, where I was shocked and stunned to find out that Ruto was the water sage. Thankfully, this meant that she couldn't marry me, and so the world would never find out what a hylian-zora mutant would look like.

Back at Lake Hylia, the lake was full again, and I (luckily) remembered the plaque; standing on it I shot at the rising sun with my arrows and got the fire arrows. Hooray!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Meteos: broken

I tried to play it last night but the game card didn't work. How distressing.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: the fire temple

After a bit of an explore as little Link, I realised that I'd explored most of the world already and had come to a dead end, so I changed back to adult Link and went off exploring again. Navi told me that Death Mountain looked odd, which I took as a hind, and headed up there. Inside the goron cave I found a goron rolling around, and eventually stopped him through cunning placement of bombs. He told me that the others had been taken away to be fed to a dragon. The king had gone to save them all. He gave me a fire tunic to allow me to go into hot areas, which looks exactly the same as the normal tunic but red. How that's going to prevent burning I have no idea.


A suspicious looking pillar in the throne room turned out to be movable, and I went through into the fire temple. I won't describe it in detail, but it was relatively straightforward, saving Gorons as you go through, with some clever use of connecting passages which open from the other side to allow you to shortcut to different areas from the start. I got a big hammer half-way through, and the boss was a whack-a-mole type affair. A big firey dragon, Volvagia. It took me a couple of tries but I killed him, got the heart, and legged it out of there.

It turns out that the king of the gorons, Darunia, is the fire sage, and he gave me a medallion.

Now, Ocarina's not my first Zelda game, so I fully expect the next dungeon to be ice or water-based. Furthermore, I've come across three races so far: the kokiri, the hylians, the gorons and the zora. The forest temple was the kokiri, the fire temple was the gorons. It's not too much of a stretch to put two and two together ...

Field Commander: big shooty invisible tank thingie

I've just finished a level in which you have to capture a city in the middle of the map, and a factory on the other side to where you start, all the time avoiding fire from a big invisible super tank, the range of which and position of which you can only guess.

I managed it by working out that the tank couldn't hit me if I sent troops around by utility copter sticking to the mountains. It was far too trial-and-error a mission, and it took me ages.

I hope the next one's better.

In any case, I'm up to around 85% completion now.