Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Columns-

So I got really lazy at the beginning of the summer and didn't post any columns. My bad.

Wii storage space lacking
By Chris Pittman
Special to The Star
07-17-2008

Nintendo's Wii took the world by storm when it was released in November 2006. The innovative motion controls combined with the company's cast of memorable characters caught the eyes of children and adults alike.

However, it was the promise of downloadable games from Nintendo's past that caught my attention.

This service, dubbed the Virtual Console, allows gamers to download titles from classic systems, for a fee, of course. I feel that Nintendo has done a pretty good job in keeping the flow of additions steady.

In fact, there is only one glaring issue with Nintendo's blast-from-the-past program. It's a problem that can affect all elements of the machine in the blink of an eye.

It has nothing to do with the Wii's power, or the fact that it's not a high-definition console in an age where pretty graphics are proclaimed to be just as important as gameplay. Performance is not an issue either, as most games run just as good as the original cart did back in the day.

You see, the real crutch in Nintendo's latest console is storage space, or lack thereof.

The Wii boasts 512 megabytes of storage onboard, which is enough to save your games and download a few classic titles. However, that minuscule amount of space quickly fills when dealing with bigger games such as hits from the Nintendo 64 era.

The recent release of WiiWare hasn't done much to help the situation, either. Many of these built-for-Wii downloadable games have fairly big file sizes. Your virtual fridge can be filled to the brim before you know it.

One way to free up space is to move Virtual Console games to an SD card, a device that is used for storage purposes in many cameras and cell phones. However, the games are unable to be played from the card, which defeats the purpose.

Nintendo will also allow you to re-download any game that you've purchased from the Wii store. This allows you to delete games that you may not play as much, but may want to revisit later.

Both of these rather inconvenient options work, but the truth of the matter is that the company simply needs to get with the times. Nintendo needs to allow hard drives in either internal or external form.

For a company that loves selling useless Pokemon-themed accessories and controllers, a 20-gigabyte Wii hard drive seems like a no-brainer.

I've read complaints all over the Internet from people refusing to download games because of the lack of space. This is lost revenue that Nintendo could gain by making the right decision. It would only help the company in the long run.

Sony and Microsoft both offer hard drives in their consoles, with the Playstation 3 supporting a number of USB devices.

That's not to say that the competition has software saving down to a science, but they are certainly in a better position than the big N.

In a generation defined by digital distribution, the amount of space available is crucial. In Nintendo's case, the Wii's current wee amount of storage is simply inexcusable.



Pimpin' ain't easy

Pimp My Ride" for Nintendo's Wii is an affront to pimps everywhere. And, unlike most "Grand Theft Auto Games" where real pimps and pros do stroll the streets, in "Pimp My Ride," I did not encounter a single prostitute.

A game with the word "pimp" in the title should include one of those.

Aside from the flagrant false advertising, "Pimp My Ride" is an interesting glimpse into MTV fantasy land, where the title "pimp" is bestowed more frequently than star stickers on a finger painting. Here "pimp" is something you say quickly over and over again until it loses all meaning.

The objective, as best I can decipher, is to drive around to various homes. These homes have rides, rides that need to be pimped. Sure, having a ride to and from work and school is nice, but you know what would make their cars even cooler? A PlayStation in the backseat.

There's just one catch — "Pimp My Ride" host Xzibit, in spite of working for MTV and being a famous rapper, has no money with which to pimp rides. A very cunning Xzibit devises a solution to his fiscal crisis. Players have to crash their rides into other cars they see on the street, because these cars drop money like little "Mario" coins.

You can also do special events for money like Ghost Ridin' the Whip.

To ghost ride you simply press A … then A again ... A ... and, um, … A …

Playing this game makes me question why I started pimpin' in the first place.

Should I even rate this game? Or better yet, how 'bout I pimp this game?

I give it one button out of five; and it's lucky it gets that.

'Gotham Knight'

For people too impatient to wait for The Dark Knight movie (me), there's a new DVD that will help you pass the days. It's called Gotham Knight, and it's set between the events of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The movie reunites the character of Batman with voice actor Kevin Conroy from Batman the Animated Series. It's actually six short anime films with different writers and different directors. Think The Animatrix, but with Batman.

The movie really fleshes out what makes Batman such a great hero. In one film, Batman rejects an invisible shield that deflects bullets because the bullets can ricochet and hit other people, including the criminals he's trying to put behind bars.

"I'm willing to put my life on the line to do what I have to," Batman says, "But it has to be mine, no one else's."

A couple of reviewers knocked the stories for being flimsy and derivative but, eh. This is more of a character-design study with lots of blood. It was money well-spent, in my opinion.

Gadrock Gamers tournament

Gadsden-based Gadrock Gamers will host a Halo 3 tournament on Saturday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Party Playstation in Oxford.

It is two-player teams versus other two-player teams and uses Major League Gaming professional rules.

Registration is $20 per team. Prizes include 1 Year Subscriptions & 1 Month Subscriptions to XBOX Live Gold, Cash & Replays Gameware Gift Certificates.

I've been to one of their events in Gadsden, and these guys are really dedicated to bringing gamers together. I'm not a big Halo fan, but I wouldn't mind dropping by and seeing what's going on.

For more information, visit www.myspace.com/gadrockgamers.



Pushing Buttons: Review of 'Ninja Gaiden 2'
By Chris Pittman
Special to The Star
06-26-2008

If large amounts of blood or severed limbs make your stomach churn, "Ninja Gaiden 2" for the Xbox 360 is probably not the right game to add to your collection. This newest thriller featuring Ryu Hayabusa is one of the more violent video games on the console, but it's also one of the best.

The game is the sequel to the popular "Ninja Gaiden" for the original Xbox, which was based on the hit trilogy from the original Nintendo Entertainment System days. Tecmo's latest title provides the fantastic gameplay of its predecessor, while adding enough original content to keep things fresh.

There are more than a dozen weapons to collect and use as you progress through the game, including melee weapons such as the Lunar Staff and projectile tools such as the shuriken. Weapons can be upgraded at the shop of Muramasa, a merchant who also sells items to aid you on the journey ahead.

Along with weapons, Ryu also has deadly magical powers at his disposal. These special moves, dubbed Ninpo attacks, require at least one flame to be present on your Ki gauge. You continue to learn new Ninpo attacks as you progress, many of which are crucial to survival later on in the game.

There are also a number of techniques that you learn while playing that make fighting much easier. The corpses of the fallen can be examined for scrolls that teach you new moves. The most powerful of the advanced actions is called the Ultimate technique, which allows Ryu to perform his weapons' most devastating maneuvers.

Visually, "Gaiden" is beautiful from start to finish, but there are some small frame rate issues. The game chugs a bit during instances with armies of enemies on screen, but this only happens a few times during the entire playthrough. Overall, "Gaiden" is very easy on the eyes.

Playing the game, on the other hand, is not that easy.

The "Ninja Gaiden" series is notorious for providing a difficult experience, and this version is no different.

Two difficulty options are initially available with two more to unlock as you progress. The game provides a challenge on any level and can prove to be quite frustrating at times. Later levels feature fights with upwards of two dozen enemies at once. You'll probably want to throw the controller a time or two as they trap Ryu in a corner and pummel him to death. This is usually a result of the game's biggest enemy of all: The camera.

The field-of-view while maneuvering through levels is pretty spot on, but can become disastrous during combat. The camera will go crazy in small rooms and tight spaces, which can make a fight with one or two enemies harder than normal. Fortunately, many of the game's more epic fights take place in a big environment, making this more of an annoyance than a problem.

All in all, "Ninja Gaiden 2" is hack-and-slash greatness, and one of the Xbox 360's premier titles. The game is fairly linear, but manages to provide a constant flow of action that has been missing from big titles this generation.

The difficulty and jumpy camera can hinder the experience a bit, but prove to be rather minor once adjustments are made. It gets 4 1/2 buttons out of 5.

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