Super Smash Maximus

So since I didn’t have TV to keep me occupied during lunch, one of the things I did today was watch Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 play itself. Mario vs. Luigi, level nine computers, fighting for my amusement while I ate a grilled cheese sandwich, (olive oil bread with cheddar cheese). I set the life count to 25 because I wanted it to last a while, but I think it’s maybe lasting too long.

Luigi got the first knock-out, but now he’s sorely behind with 11 lives to Mario’s 15. I wouldn’t say this plan worked, I’m not really entertained. There have been a number of moments I wish I could have captured on video, where the computers just caught themselves in strategic loops.

For instance:
A dangerous but powerful item lands in the center of the fighting ring, Mario and Luigi approach it, hoping to grasp that item for themselves. Just as they’re capable of grabbing the item, they’re also in the item’s deadly reach, so both Mario and Luigi dodge-roll out of the way, only to continue approaching the item afterwards. This loops a few times before the item disappears and the fighting continues again.

This is just the type of thing that I would write about when left with nothing left to keep me occupied. Luigi has closed the gap, eight lives to Mario’s nine. With 101% damage, he brings the match to an even eight-eight, though Mario has 0% damage. A Luigi win is not out of the realm of possibility… And then, Luigi grabbed a Heart Container, brought his health down to 0%, and knocked out Mario. Luigi has eight lives left to Mario’s seven.

Luigi stays on top, or even with Mario, until with five lives, Mario knocks Luigi down to just four. Afterwards Mario grabbed a Heart Container, sealing his victory, I assumed. Luigi reached his final life, and Mario still had two. Having only taken 29% damage, Luigi knocked out Mario. At that moment, two Pokeballs fell from the sky. Luigi grabbed one. Mario grabbed one.

Luigi’s Pokeball released a Starmie, and Mario’s released a Beedrill. Luigi came out of the Pokemon fight with 77% damage, to Mario’s 40%. The brothers threw fireballs at each other, landed some punches, and Luigi appeared to be on top; 85% damage to Mario’s 97%. That’s when Mario grabbed a Laser Sword, and put the beat down on Luigi. The brutality didn’t stop there, as Mario grabbed a Fire Flower, and then Luigi had taken 221% damage to Mario’s 101%.

Down but not out, Luigi grabbed another Laser Sword. He was on the ropes, one good hit away from being KO’d, when he threw the Laser Sword in Mario’s face, sending Mario flying of the stage. After nearly thirty grueling minutes, Luigi wins.

2004 Retrospective: Half Life 2

Half Life 2 turned 10 this year, though it was only 7 years ago that I first played it in The Orange Box. So, how is City 17 holding up?

Well, for a game that’s 10 years old I was still impressed by the visuals. It does some things better than even newer games, water for instance. Why does the water in Half Life 2 look better than the water in Skyrim? Some of it is visual trickery on the part of the Source Engine. According to developer commentary the water is rendered three times. 1) The reflection of everything above the water. 2) The refraction of everything below the water. 3) The player’s view of the water. Valve’s smarts keeps an old engine looking fine. Textures here and there could use an upgrade, but otherwise Half Life 2 is still a great-looking game.

Another thing that holds up is the combat. Half Life 2 lets you take on a wide variety of opponents in unique settings. Fighting Combine and Headcrab forces underneath the bridge is nerve-racking and fun. The Combine can feel bullet-spongey at times, but I never felt like the fights were unfair. As the player, it’s up to you to use your noggin at times. You have to do more than think about taking cover. It’s not like your health will just regenerate if you wait long enough. You can and will get stuck in situations where you have to think about how to survive. How to use the Gravity Gun to kill what you can, preserve ammo. The pacing of combat left me feeling exhausted – all I’m doing is fighting, fighting, fighting. Interesting encounters against airships, helicopters, antlions, zombies, and striders are welcome.

The only thing that felt unwelcome at times were puzzles. Or rather, I welcomed puzzles as a breath of fresh air, a chance to put down guns for a second – but the quality of puzzles did not stand up. Many of them just feel like tech demos, while others were like poor platformers. Maybe I liked them the first time through all those years ago – but well lets talk about “Sandtraps.” The chapter is “Tremors,” don’t touch the sand, and monsters won’t attack you. Great concept, except that the physics drives me crazy. I as a player am trying to build a bridge of objects to cross the sand. Funky controls and even less stable physics make it a much harder task than it should be. Picking up and placing objects with the Gravity Gun was just not as fun as I remembered, nor as easy.

Revisiting Half Life 2 was fun at times, and sometimes frustrating. The thing that kept driving me forward was story though, and this little trip down memory lane made me thirsty for more Half Life. The state of the world in Half Life 2 is intensely engaging. The Uprising – appropriately exciting. Most of all, the mystery of Breen, G-Man, and the Combine will keep me thinking all night. What would Half Life 2: Episode Three would have been? What’s going to happen? What will Half Life 3 be? I’m glad I revisited Half Life 2 if only because I remembered how good it is, and was able to appreciate how well it aged. In other ways, revisiting Half Life 2 has frustrated me, because oh my god – it’s been 10 years and we haven’t closed the door on City 17.

What’s Up (12/14/13)

I’m home in New York, wrapped up in a blanket, listening to music from Animal Crossing, and ready to start writing. There was not a whole lot of time to write for my own sake these last few days. I know I wrote a Nuzlog post on Wednesday, but that felt more like an obligation to close the book on Pokemon Y, a book-closing twenty days late.

As soon as I was done with any one paper, I had to move onto the next. There was always something to do this finals week, and it marked the height of my productivity this whole semester. Even when I finished my last final on Friday, I basically got home and packed for an hour and a half straight, before rushing out the door to catch a bus to the airport.

I made a few stray observations yesterday. For starters, I was sitting down on a public bench waiting for a bus, and an old man smoking a cigarette sat down next to me. The last time I let somebody smoke next to me on a bench before a flight, I reeked of cigarettes so bad I had to take off my jacket and throw it in my luggage. It was gross and awful. So I got up from the bench and stood far away from the gross cigarette dude, and I don’t think he was happy about it, but whatever. I think it’d be courteous of all smokers to, I don’t know…. not smoke at a bus stop.

On the bus to the airport I realized, in the frenzy to pack, that I forgot to bring a friend-favorite video game, Fortune Street. Is that a little bit of a bummer? Yeah, but honestly, I think it might be nice to just chill sometimes with your friends, make fun conversation instead of relying on video games all of the time. Now that I write this, I also realize I didn’t bring Cards Against Humanity, which is another bummer. Particularly so because, that’s a fun non-video-game thing to do. By spring break though, I’ll have two all-new expansions for that game to play, and the Bigger, Blacker Box to store all of the cards in.

I’m becoming less and less careful about making sure that I pack everything I need, and while that’s having repercussions in the “what will I do with my friends” department, I think the lower levels of packing stress are better for my health. Travel doesn’t need to be stressful. I love airports, and as long as you get there early, you can sit, get food, and relax from Point A to Point B.

One last note: I had a dream last night, a nightmare, a reminder not to wait on things, to let people know how you feel, when you feel it.

Yvonne: Log Seven

It has now been twenty days since I “beat” Pokemon Y. By “beat” I mean, defeated the Elite Four and the League Champion. That’s been what I’ve defined as “beating” a Pokemon game since I was a little kid. Catching them all, or getting into the deep competition meta-game has never been my thing. The Elite Four and Champion of Pokemon Y are entertaining enemies, with theatrics unlike what I’ve seen in past games, though they were pushovers. I feel like Pokemon Y doesn’t exactly know who its for, as the story goes into dark territory, but the characters are so shallow and the writing so dumbed down. That was never more apparent than the end of the game, in which an immortal being interrupts the Star Wars: A New Hope-esque awards ceremony (where your useless friends are celebrated as heroes alongside your character, even though you do all of the work) and challenges you to a battle. The circumstances surrounding the immortal being are disturbing and heart-wrenching, in theory, but your character just smiles gladly and accepts the invitation to battle. The end of the game was entirely underwhelming, and I feel totally okay about expecting more from a Pokemon game, Pokemon Emerald knew how to make the end feel like this big emotional moment, Pokemon Y just spilled all over the place.

I find myself wishing that I could just put together teams without doing all of the catching and training. There are all of these teams I’d like to use in online battles, but I am so done with catching and training. Pokemon Y feels like its run its course, for the time being, until I find out how to Action-Replay or cheat my way into building competitive teams. I can’t believe I’m actually writing that, as I’ve always stood my ground about the value of playing Pokemon “the way it’s meant to be played,” but I’ve realized that gets very, very boring, and very, very repetitive.

So that being said, this will be the last Nuzlog post for a while.

What’s Up? (10/18/13)

I’m not sure, but I think this might have been the longest I’ve gone without posting a chapter of What’s Up? Not that I’ve lacked for things to say since… 10/8/13… obviously the Nine Inch Nails concert and release of Pokemon X/Y has generated content over the past week.

Maybe I’ve lacked for things to say if all I can talk about is a concert and a video game.

Lets take everything from the weekend then. On Friday the 11th we celebrated my roommates birthday by going to Hoffbrau Haus, which was fun. Met somebody new, which is always nice. There was a particular drinking game played that night, as this roommate of mine turned 21, and it might have had something to do with Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. I didn’t participate, instead partaking in that concoction mentioned in the first part of Liqueur, which I think made a particular impression on that somebody new.

Saturday was incredibly relaxed in comparison to Friday’s craziness, and really the only things of note that happened that day were the release of Pokemon X/Y, and a screening of First Blood (Rambo) at the apartment. I never saw Rambo before, and was surprised that it took place in America… after all I’ve only ever seen clips of Rambo fighting dudes in jungles (Vietnam presumably).

Sunday was…. football? I guess. I really don’t remember much about Sunday I guess, nor Monday. I mean, on Monday I barely/didn’t sleep, since I was working my butt off to write papers. Not sleeping much has been a theme this week, unfortunately. On Wednesday, like a total klutz, I walked straight into a piece of furniture in the dark – which left one leg bleeding in a few places, and one toe badly bruised. Between The Nine Inch Nails’ double dose of leg cramp, and this Wednesday’s injury, I’ve been hesitant to do my normal gym runs, which is unfortunate. I haven’t been eating incredibly well, and I could really use a few solid sessions of rowing.

Today (in… ten hours) I’m going to continue interviewing people for a piece of journalism. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before, and I’m not going to explain anything now, but I thought I’d leave off on a positive note. By the way, I’m happy about doing the interviews: that’s what makes this a positive note.


What’s Up? (7/3/2013)

Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Oh my, if that game isn’t the most pleasant, care-free thing ever. No wonder the local Gamestop and Best Buy were sold out: this game could probably be enjoyed by just about anybody with a soul. It’s been less than 24 hours since Mayor Sandwich arrived in the town of New Deli, but it’s been a really good time so far. I caught lots of cicadas, one fruit beetle, and one butterfly. I dug up some fossils, and shook trees to collect cherries. Really the things I’m doing should be boring, should feel like a waste of time, should feel trivial – but I love every minute of the game so far, and every little step in Animal Crossing feels rewarding.

In other news: I was technically a day late with the Michael Bolton review I suppose. I published it at 9 PM EST but WordPress follows Greenwich Mean Time so,  my music review was published on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday – totally screwing up the Tuesday/Thursday music review schedule and…. who really cares? Nobodies itching to read more about Michael Bolton, and I’m really not looking forward to hearing more Michael Bolton – but I must press on.

That’s it for today really. Animal Crossing is good, life is good in general, going to a party in about an hour – and I have to subject myself to the aural exercise that is listening to a Michael Bolton album.

What’s Up? (6/9/2013)

So today I beat Super Mario 3D Land which was probably one of the more satisfying video game experiences I’ve had in a while. Complaining about the story in a Mario game might sound ridiculous, but I was honestly bothered by how weak Peach is depicted in every single cut-scene in the game. Shouting “Mario!” in desperation was about the only dialogue she had besides sighing in defeat or gasping in excitement for Mario’s appearances. Whatever though. Peach still kicks ass in Super Smash Bros.

I’m working on a comic adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer In A Day” and its rather satisfying work. Drawing comics can take a while because of just keeping characters consistent-looking, but its very rewarding. I’m actually writing this blog post with my left hand and a Targus iPad Stylus in my right hand. By the way, I’m drawing the comic with my iPad and its making me wonder if I really need a drawing tablet to do digital comics and illustration. The Adobe Ideas app lets me draw and upload sketches to a cloud, and download them anywhere which is handy. Anyways, back to work soon – I need to get a certain amount of this comic done before the Game of Thrones finale tonight.