Monday, December 30, 2013

Year of Gaming (2013) - Part 2

If you missed it, part 1 is this way.

Fez (PC)
It seemed like nations rose and fell during the time it take for Fez to come out. Then after it came out, I had to wait for its PC release. Was it worth the wait? …not really, but it's still a good game. The 3D, yet retro, styled graphics are a beauty and the gimmick of turning the view to change the reality of the world is a really cool idea. There are Myst-like puzzles to solve and doors freaking everywhere to open and explore. The only problem is that there is very little interesting or challenging level design to go along with the cool concept. Many of the optional puzzles are quite challenging to figure out, but the majority of the game, simply getting from here to there, is often easy to the point of just being a waste of time.
(Image source)
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
It's a laid back game of bug catching, fishing, running errands, dressing up, decorating, collecting, and diving headlong into ever increasing debt. As great as the core gameplay has always been, though admittedly not for everyone, previous entries in the series added disappointingly little with each iteration. Thankfully, that's not the case with New Leaf. At last, this is an Animal Crossing sequel worth getting as it adds tons of new content in the form of new events and items, an island, swimming, pants and shoes, and duties as mayor of the town. It might not be your kind of game, but if it is, you're going to love it.
Mickey's Dangerous Chase (GB) (Review) (My speedrun)
For a GameBoy platforming game, Mickey's Dangerous Chase is pretty good. It's got some variety in stages, it's got the gimmick of picking up and throwing blocks, it's got catchy music, and it's unexpectedly challenging. But that doesn't explain how I've spent so many hours on a game that I can now beat in under thirteen minutes. The explanation for that is magical replay value of speedrunning. For me, Mickey's Chase will never again be the game it once was; it's now a race to the finish with every mistake as dire as a game over. But you don't have to speedrun this game to enjoy it. It's not the best game ever, but it's better than many and it's definitely worth playing.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted U (Wii U) (Review) (Videos)
If you wanted a sequel to Burnout Paradise, good, because that's what Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012) is. In it, you explore a large city to find other cars to drive, billboards and gates to smash, and speed cameras to trigger, in between doing races of course. Each vehicle has its own set of races, milestones, and unlockable upgrades. While the graphics, handling, and city design are improved over Burnout Paradise's, the spectacular crashes and variety of challenges are unfortunately taken down a notch. Also, if you're expecting much vehicle customization, prepare to be disappointed, as it doesn't exceed changing each vehicle's color and stats. Most Wanted might be a bit repetitive, but it's still very enjoyable and worth playing for the right price.
Cave Story+ (PC)
Having played the original free version of Cave Story a few times and the Wii Ware version one time, I was already fairly experienced with the game before starting Cave Story+. If you haven't played it yet, you need to. It has some elements from Metroid, but is a bit less exploration based and has more of a story. It's quite challenging (especially when attempting the super secret ending) and the soundtrack is fantastic. What makes it more amazing is that the original was made by just one guy. This remake is cool in that it adds some new challenges and has updated graphics and music. I used to consider this to be a flawless game, but upon my most recent playthrough I did realize that it does have a bit too much of needless backtracking in early areas. Still, Cave Story is a fantastic game that everyone ought to play in one form or another.
Kirby's Return to Dreamland (Wii) (Review) (Videos)
It's unfair that Kirby games don't sell better and that this one in particular came out so late in the Wii's lifetime. Return to Dreamland is truly fantastic and makes the New Super Mario Bros. series hang its head in shame. This entry in the Kirby series has more content, more difficulty, and brings back almost all of the best things from the series to make the ultimate Kirby game. I know it's hard to get a hold of and still rather expensive, but this is one of the best games on Wii and it doesn't deserve to be missed.
Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection (PS3) (Review) (Let's Play)
Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are amazingly fun, unique, and beautiful games, but you probably already knew that. They both manage to develop interesting stories with minimal actual storytelling and have an impressive amount of depth in gameplay for having relatively simple mechanics. Basically, if you took apart a Zelda game and separated its essential parts, Ico would be the dungeons and Shadow of the Colossus would be the adventure and epic boss battles. The HD versions look better than the already good looking originals, but the graphics won't blow you away like those of other PS3 games might. Even with the technical limitations regarding graphics, both of these games had great art direction which allows them to be timelessly appealing in spite of the limitations with which they were originally developed.
Custom Robo (GCN)
"Building and fighting robots? Meh." ... That's what I thought before playing Custom Robo. Thankfully I didn't let that stop me from giving it a try, because it's a lot more than meets the eye. The gameplay is far more technical and strategic than it first seems. Simple button mashing will not get you through Custom Robo, as there are weapon cool downs, cover, vulnerability windows, and tons of minor variables for each weapon to consider. Not only do the battles, the real meat of the game, have a ton of depth, but surprisingly, the story is actually really good as well and manages to present some serious themes while also being absolutely hilariously written and translated. I don't care how much you like fighting robots, chances are you'll enjoy Custom Robo regardless. Also, don't take Custom Robo Arena for DS as a substitute; the gameplay is still good but the writing and story is dull in comparison.
Super Monkey Ball 2 (GCN) (Videos)
What's with this cutesy kid game? It's ridiculously hard, that's what. By the unfortunately short lived developer, Amusement Vision, the team also responsible for F-Zero GX, Super Monkey Ball 2 features a very simple concept: roll a ball into the goal. It's starts out simple enough, but before long, you're rolling up, over, and around ridiculous abstract structures and moving parts. You'll need a keen feel for managing momentum and angles, and a bit of luck, if you want to finish all of this game's levels. For some players, the level of difficulty might just be frustrating, but the game's super fast menus make retrying a level easy and painless. It's one of those games that you'll want to just try over and over until you're finally able to get that monkey-in-a-ball through the goal.
Wii Fit U (Wii U) (Videos)
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Wii Fit U is its purchasing options. The game can be downloaded and played for free for a month. If you want to own it forever, you can buy a special $20 pedometer which syncs up with the Wii U and activates the game. I only played the free version (and I skipped Wii Fit+), but it did have a few welcome improvements to the series. There were some new games and exercises in addition to old ones. You could also join specific Miiverse communities according to how you intended to exercise. Probably the best feature was being able to see which kind of exercises you've been doing the most and easily select exercises that focus on different muscles. The GamePad also has the option to use the camera as a mirror to see how your form matches up with the example. All-in-all, it's a worthy addition to the Wii Fit series, though I expect that it's still going to get old fast and turn into just another bothersome way to exercise before long for most people.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)
I haven't played either the first or the third game in this series, but this one was impressively well-made. It has lots of options for how to tackle each situation, buttloads of hidden things to find, and really imaginative scenes involving fear gas. Apart from the fairly lengthy main story, there are also additional challenges to try. My only complaints are that the story isn't anything super interesting and that the last boss is incredibly underwhelming. If you like Batman and/or actiony, sometimes stealthy, bad guy face punchy games, definitely play this.
TrackMania²: Stadium, Canyon (PC)
TrackMania is one of my favorite racing games and it's pretty unique too. It has realistic looking cars and relatively realistic physics, but the tracks are off the wall, with loops and ramps and half-pipes all over the place. It's all about conserving momentum and having perfect execution. Rather than racing against other players directly, TrackMania has you racing to get the best times. Even when playing online on any of the thousands of custom tracks, you'll be racing alongside ghosts of other players and competing to get the fastest time in as many attempts as you can fit in the time limit. Unfortunately, even though the core gameplay is fantastic and addicting, the game isn't without flaws. Since there are three versions of TrackMania², each with its own theme, focus, and physics, the once thriving community has been divided somewhat. The game's many point systems are also confusing and poorly explained, so you'll be hard pressed to figure out what everything means without asking someone. Also, Stadium is hardly any different from the old free version. Still, if you can get it on sale, I'd recommend it. As for which version to get, I'm still partial to Stadium, which is also the cheapest.
Super Mario Bros. 3D World (Wii U) (Videos)
Was it worth the hype? I'd say so. Super Mario 3D World is a prime example of how a 3D Mario game can still be fantastic even with a linear design. This game has tons of cool ideas in each level, fantastic music and graphics, and enough challenge and extra levels for experienced players to enjoy. It's genuinely fun and one of the best Mario games ever. Its only faults are an often wonky camera during multiplayer and an unfortunate lack of online multiplayer. Still, for single player, Mario doesn't get much better than this.
Virtual Boy Wario Land (VB) (Review)
It's short - only about two hours long - but it's pretty sweet. I wouldn't say it's worth buying a Virtual Boy for, but if you already have one, Virtual Boy Wario Land is worth playing for its well designed platforming, exploration, and plentiful secrets. It's a really solid game all around with quick, responsive controls, smooth animations, and cool 3D effects. You might not be able to play it, but at least you now know that it exists. Here's hoping it gets a 3DS remake.
Tales of Xillia (PS3)
I haven't made it very far into the game yet, but here are my impressions so far: The real-time battle system is as good as ever and has the welcome additions of being able to link with a party member for various effects and being able to swap out characters mid-battle. There's also a more interesting skill tree, though it's nothing special when compared with other RPGs. Sidequests are plentiful and easy to spot and they often give you amusing items as rewards which serve no function other than dressing up your characters (mine have bushy eyebrows, aviator glasses, and drippy noses). The overworld and dungeons are thankfully more interactive as well, with objects to climb and jump off of. On the other hand, the story thus far is painfully generic for the genre (though I suspect a twist may be coming), and the quality of the graphics is far below what one would expect for a PS3 game. I can't pass a final judgement on the game at this point, but fans of the series will certainly appreciate all of the improvements to the core gameplay.

Thus ends another year of gaming. Thanks for reading this and other articles on What They Call Games throughout the year! Be sure to follow on Twitter and Facebook to keep updated and show your support. I really appreciate it!

Here's a look back at this year's most popular posts:
1. What's in a DS Download Station
2. 8 Unflattering Depictions of Well-Known Games
3. Pokemon According to my Dad
4. Why do I own this GBA racing wheel?
5. The Terrible PC Version of Super Mario Bros.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I found baby Jesus! - Merry Christmas

There's no better way to celebrate Christmas than to play the notoriously bad unlicensed NES game by Wisdom Tree, King of Kings. It's got three games in one and they're all piles of reindeer poop. All I cared about for now though was the first game, "The Wise Men". In it, you play as a wise man riding on a rock-spitting camel who is following the star to find baby Jesus. From there, it's just simple platforming with horribly slippery physics.
I traversed the desert and collected scrolls for health, along with frankincense, myrrh, and gold for completely useless bonus points.
Scrolls could only be collected by answering Bible trivia questions which were often reused. Even though the health apparently maxed out at five, you could continue collecting more than that and it would just not be shown on-screen.
Orangutans seem to work for Satan
The fifteen stages varied wildly between stupidly hard, stupidly easy, and just plain stupid. Much of the platforming was unexpectedly hard, and falling would often make you to start all over. One level required you to re-enter a door that you just came out of in order to get to a new area. It was dumb.
There were also sharks in the waterfalls. Better than a sharknado I guess.

At last, I reached baby Jesus. 
Along with this screen, my reward was an 8-bit rendition of Away in a Manger, which I guess was better than the 8-bit version of We Three Kings that played for the entire rest of the game.
There weren't any credits, but there was this final screen instead. Regrettably, I don't have the beginning or the end of the manual, so you'll have to keep wondering about that.

Now that baby Jesus has been found, you may resume having your merry Christmas and happy new year.

Also check out my pitches for 7 Bible-based games that'd be totally righteous.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Year of Gaming (2013)

 <- 2012's Year of Gaming
As is now tradition on What They Call Games, for the end of the year I looked back at all the games I played the most during the year. They aren't necessarily the hottest and newest games, they're just whatever I happened to play. For each, I wrote a short review and shared my thoughts on them approximately in the order in which I played them during the year. I'll be splitting this into two parts. Here we go!

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale (PS3)
While fun at first glance, further playing of Playstation All-Stars reveals that it lacks the polish and amount of content of its competitors. It's not a bad game exactly, but it's not super good either. I appreciate that they tried something new with the "super system", in which you spend the fight charging up super attacks which are the only attacks that can KO your opponents, but unfortunately this system doesn't work as well as simply having an HP meter or trying to knock opponents off of the stage. That, and it's fairly unbalanced and easy to win by spamming certain attacks.
Dark Souls (PS3)
Everyone talks about how hard this game is, so I had to see it for myself. It didn't take me long to realize that, yes, Dark Souls is indeed hard. What people don't always tell you though, is how open this game is. It reminds me of older RPGs somewhat, in that the game does almost nothing to tell you where to go. You're free to go almost wherever you want from the beginning and the only things letting you know that you went the "wrong" way are beastly enemies that destroy you. If you don't mind crazy hard bosses and getting lost, definitely give Dark Souls a try.
Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 (PS3) (Review)
This game's really unique. It's kind of like Animal Crossing in that you just walk around town (an old-fashioned rural town in Hokkaido, Japan) and do whatever things a little boy would want to do, like catching bugs, fishing, and playing jump rope. It's unlike Animal Crossing in that the game is limited to thirty in-game days with time passing as you move between areas. It also has a continuing story and interesting characters, along with different events throughout the month. It's a relaxing game with beautiful backgrounds and scenery. If you don't understand Japanese, you won't get as much out of it, but I have translated and subtitled a good chunk of the game for those who want to check it out.
Mr. Driller: Drill Land (GCN) (Review)
There are some Mr. Driller games available in the US, but Drill Land isn't one of them. It's unfortunate too, because it's one of the best. It has five variations to the usual Mr. Driller gameplay which are all consistently fun and fairly challenging. Unlike Boku no Natsuyasumi 3, I can confidently recommend Mr. Driller: Drill Land even to those without experience with Japanese. Also, it's worth noting that it has one of my favorite soundtracks ever, which is how I found the game in the first place. The music is composed by Go Shiina, of Tales of Legendia and God Eater fame. If you can't play the game, at least give the soundtrack a listen.
Crashmo (3DS)
I'm not one to support Nintendo's eshop, at least not yet, but for smaller games like Crashmo which are only available digitally, I guess it's alright to give it a try. And I'm glad that I did give it a try, because Crashmo is a really clever and challenging puzzle game with lots of puzzles and new variations that are frequently added to the mix. The gist is that you push blocks and platforms around, making others fall, in order to make your way to the top. Anyway, it's good, and the fact that it has a level editor puts the replay value through the roof. If you like puzzle games, check it out.
Excitebots: Trick Racing (Wii) (Review) (Video review)
In spite of Excitebots' forgettable and boring art direction and occasionally irritating motion controls, its unique spin on the racing genre makes it one of the most fun games I've played on Wii. Instead of just racing for first place, in Excitebots you compete to reach a target number of stars. These stars are granted for absolutely everything; from catching big air and doing spins to constructing sandwiches and hitting tambourines in rhythm. It's fast, it's crazy, and it's incredibly fun. Don't let the title and graphics fool you; this game is very much worth playing.
Nintendo Land (Wii U) (Videos)
This is the game that should have been in all of the Wii U demo kiosks. This is the game that should've sold the Wii U like Wii Sports did the Wii. Nintendo Land is more fun and has more to do than the average minigame collection and all of the games make you realize how fun the GamePad can be. It's great with friends or alone. Sure, some of the games annoyingly make you replay from the beginning every time or have less levels than I'd like, but for the most part, Nintendo Land far exceeded my expectations and I think it's a game that every Wii U owner should have.
New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U) (Videos)
What to say about New Super Mario Bros. U… On the one hand, the level design is as good as ever and the addition of a punishingly hard challenge mode is very much welcome, but on the other hand, it still has the uninspired art direction and soundtrack of previous New Super Mario Bros. games. I'm tempted to say that I consider it to be the best 2D Mario game to date, but even still I can't help but think how much better it could have been when looking at other platformers like Rayman Legends, Kirby's Return to Dreamland, and Donkey Kong Country Returns. New Super Mario Bros. U is a great game, but it takes the easy way out and doesn't do anything extraordinary.
Pokemon Black 2 (DS)
I feel horrible saying this, but I am bored of Pokemon. I finally dragged myself through finishing Black 2, and while it was still very good, the drudgery of wading through wild Pokemon and trainer battle after trainer battle finally got to me. It's not really the game's fault. There are some improvements that I'd like to see, and it seems that X and Y may have made some of them, but I think my main problem is that I just don't feel like training competitive teams any more now that my friends don't have the time for it either. Anyway, Pokemon is still good, don't get me wrong, I just need a break for a while. See you when Pokemon Z comes out.
Ninja Gaiden (NES)
I heard this game was hard, but when I started it for a blind race on SpeedRunsLive, it didn't seem so bad. You run fast, you cling to walls, you kill enemies with one hit of the sword or special weapon. Basically, you feel like a totally badass ninja. …Until you get further in the game. Suddenly there are birds and other enemies flying all over the place and knocking you into pits. It's ok though because you have unlimited continues. But then it gets even harder; so much so that it took me nearly an hour to finish one of the later levels and only then by using a glitch to despawn one of the enemies. Then, there's the three stage last boss, which dying to makes you play the whole world over again rather than just that level as had been the case during the rest of the game. My only complaint with Ninja Gaiden is that darn final boss loop. That, and enemies juggling you against walls. Other than that though, Ninja Gaiden is like Battletoads, it's not just a hard game, it's a really good game. Actually beating it legitimately has been one of my proudest achievements in gaming.
Thomas Was Alone (PC)
The simple, but not lazily simple art direction, the interesting narration and story, and the easy to understand puzzle-platforming gameplay make Thomas Was Alone quite a good game. But, at the same time, I didn't really enjoy playing it most of the time. Many of the puzzles felt more like a hassle than a puzzle to me. It's still good, but it's probably not for everyone.
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (3DS) (Review)
Virtue's Last Reward alternates between long visual novel segments and object-based puzzle segments, but what really will keep you playing is the engaging and twisting story. It features a widely branching storyline with multiple endings and one mind-blowing true ending. The translation and voice acting are both above average and there's even the option to switch to Japanese voice acting. Unfortunately, the 3DS version of the game has a rather terrible glitch than can corrupt your save file if you're unlucky, but apart from that, I can't recommend this game enough to anyone who loves a good story. Just be sure to play 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors first for maximum enjoyment.
Super Metroid (SNES)
I've played Super Metroid before on SNES, but for 30 cents I couldn't resist playing it again on Wii U Virtual Console. It's a masterpiece of a game with great atmosphere made up of fantastic backgrounds, music, and creatures. It's just the right level of challenging and there are secrets around every corner. Finding out what lies beyond each new doorway and previously impassable obstacles is truly a joy. There's very little negative to say about Super Metroid and it's one of my favorite games of all time. 
(Image source)
Scribblenauts: Unlimited (PC) (Video)
Scribblenauts isn't a particularly difficult game, but that doesn't make it any less fun. Your enjoyment of this game will be directly proportional to the level of creativity you put into it. Since you can solve the many simple puzzles by writing any object into existence, you might be tempted to take the easy way out and just make bridges to cross gaps, but doing so would be robbing yourself of the fun of the game. Why walk across a bridge when you can fly across on a giant flying manatee? It's that kind of random fun that makes Scribblenauts: Unlimited worth playing. I recommend the PC version in particular due to it's lower price and object creator which is integrated with the Steam Workshop.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Virtual Boy Wario Land, the cool game you'll probably never play

Platform: Virtual Boy    Genre: Platforming    Release: November 27, 1995
I hope you've got six AA batteries, because it's time to fire up the old Virtual Boy and check out Virtual Boy Wario Land! If you haven't played a Wario Land game before, fear not, I hadn't either. 

The thing to know about Wario as compared to Mario is that Wario cares more about money than saving princesses. As such, even though this is a platforming game, the levels are designed with more exploration and collection in mind than the typical 2D Mario game; the twenty minute time limit for each level compared to Mario's average of two minutes can attest to that (although, to be honest, that time limit is probably just there to encourage you to rest your eyes every twenty minutes). To win each stage, you'll have to find the key to the elevator at the end of the level. But if that's all you do, you're playing the game wrong, because each level is also loaded with secret areas filled with coins, hearts (for 1-ups), and one extra hidden treasure. After each level you'll also have the option to risk coins for a chance to multiply them or spend coins to win more lives. Finding the rare treasure in each level is the only way to see the game's best ending (other endings are given out based on your total coins) and to unlock the second quest.
One of the mysterious treasure rooms
The plentiful secret areas are almost always accessed by using Wario's various powerups to destroy walls and objects or to clear otherwise impassable gaps. If you've played a Metroid game before, you'll recognize a similar thrill from this game in the number of unexpectedly destructible walls and hidden areas. There are secrets within secrets within secrets in this game, so you'll want to be suspicious of everything. As a side note, the fact that this game takes place deep underground in rather mysterious locations, has distinctive item rooms, and elevators between levels also contributes to a tone very similar to that of a Metroid game.

Unlike Mario, Wario's powerups and modes of attack focus more on dashing into things, ground pounding, and shooting fire (but not fireballs). Jumping on an enemy only stuns it, allowing you to either pick it up and throw it or to finish it off with a dash. This iteration of Wario Land also makes use of the Virtual Boy's gimmick of 3D by allowing you to jump back and forth from the foreground to background by using special blocks. Enemies and obstacles also sometimes move between the different levels of depth, and bosses especially make use of this feature. By the way, Kirby: Triple Deluxe also uses the same kind of things to show off the 3DS's 3D effect.
Jump pads let you move to the background to explore new areas and avoid hazards.
There are several catchy tunes to be heard in Wario Land, though most of them are just variations of the main theme. It also has some fancy stereo sounds that occasionally offer audio cues to alert you to the direction of incoming attacks. Some transitional areas take another page from Metroid's book by only having ambient sounds, like that of a waterfall for example. Unfortunately, as a limitation of the hardware, these ambient sounds come at the expense of muting other sound effects. These areas are few and far between though, so it's not a major problem. 

Concerning the graphics, Virtual Boy Wario Land's are fairly nice, as far as red and black graphics go. The sprites and backgrounds are crisp, animations are clean and noticeably above average, and everything moves fast and smoothly. According to my friends who can see 3D, the 3D effect is also "really cool". There's also a good bit of variety between each level's visual theme and enemies, and, occasionally, minor new additions to the gameplay as well. That variation partially makes up for the game's deplorably short length of fourteen levels which includes four boss levels. 
Only fourteen levels? Really?
Indeed, if there's one complaint I have for this game it's that it is short. Chances are that it'll only take you about two hours to finish, even if you find most of the treasures. Even the second quest doesn't offer much additional replay value as it only adds spike blocks to the levels and doesn't change any enemy or treasure locations. If you do want to try to unlock the second quest, you'll be annoyed to find that there's no easy way to skip back to the levels in which you missed treasures. Instead, you'll have to play the whole game over again or walk back through each level in sequence.

The Final Word:
Virtual Boy Wario Land is certainly an enjoyable game that's worth playing if you get the chance. It's not worth buying a Virtual Boy over, if only due to its incredibly short length, but if by some stroke of luck it sees a virtual console release, I definitely recommend giving it a shot.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Weirdest Nintendo Promotion Ever?

How do you promote the latest new handheld gaming system featuring a touch screen? I'm no business expert, but mailing out disembodied hands with the slogan "Touching is Good" wouldn't have been my first choice.

Let's back up a bit. Nintendo's latest and greatest new handheld at the time was the Nintendo DS, which came out in late 2004 in North America and Japan and early 2005 in Europe and Australia. It was a time of great hype and fanboyism, as the official message board of Nintendo of America, the NSider Forums, was in full swing. If you weren't there to witness it, imagine, if you will, the strong uninformed opinions and overly strict moderation that you might see on a typical GameFaqs message board, but make it all about Nintendo and add in weekly trivia contests in live chat rooms and a never-ending quest to attain higher ranks according to your post and view count. As a young Nintendo fanboy, it was all I could ever hope for.
Good times...
But even though it seemed Nintendo could do no wrong for me, I still had to question the slogan for the Nintendo DS. "Touching is Good"? I imagined that someone had scrawled it out on a paper as a joke and that someone else had found it after a conference and actually used it. I can only assume that this slogan made shopping at GameStop an even more traumatic experience than it already was for any victims of physical abuse.

In any case, Nintendo went with that slogan and had to stick to their decision. But then, in April of 2005, several months after the Nintendo DS's release, they made things even weirder with a promotional contest. In what could only have been a series of logical leaps akin to Nicolas Cage's character in National Treasure deciphering the clues to the cover-up that is Mt. Rushmore, the DS's touch screen led to the "Touching is Good" slogan which led to... sending out mannequin hands with instructions to take pictures of them touching things.
It didn't matter how weird it was; the NSider Forums fed the hype and thousands requested to be sent a free mannequin hand, myself included. In fact, so many hands were sent out that after they ran out, they provided a downloadable image of the hand for you to Photoshop into pictures as an alternative. I pretty much just wanted the hand because it was free and used it to "lend a hand" and to creepily tap people on the shoulder.

After the submission period had ended, a panel of "qualified judges" sorted through the submissions like what must have been the closest thing to Chat Roulette the internet had yet seen (and by that I mean pictures of people's junk), and chose three winners. The grand prize winner received $1,000 cash, a DS, and four DS games, with second and third place receiving a DS and $500 or $250 respectively.

The winners and many of the other entries are still viewable on, but just in case of the site's eventual removal, here are the winning three entries:
Second Prize Winner - 1UP Submitted by Andrew E., California
First Prize Winner - Touch! Jungle Beat, submitted by Eric G., California
Grand Prize Winner - Touching is Good in video games, submitted by Steve B., Washington

If you still have your hand from this contest, feel free to take a picture and post it in the comments!

For more obscure Nintendo DS stuff, check out the inside of a DS Download Station or other stuff by Nintendo that was so crazy you'd think it was a joke.
Preemptive link to Betteridge's law of headlines.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Japanese You Can Learn From Pokemon Names

If you've been paying any attention at all, I'm sure you've noticed that Pokemon aren't just named all willy-nilly. They usually (always?) have something in their name that relates to what they are or what they do. Some are easier to figure out than others and part of the reason that some are hard to figure out is because they come from Japanese words. In most cases, the names of Pokemon are translated into each language the games are released in so that players can understand the puns in the names, but there are a bunch of cases where the Japanese names carried over, especially earlier on in the series. Also as the series went on, more names drew from languages besides both English and Japanese, like Latin. You can check Bulbapedia for the name origins of each Pokemon, but for now I'm just going to focus on some Japanese words you can learn from certain Pokemon names since I majored in Japanese and have to put that to use somehow.
Pikachu - A pika is an actual small mammal and "chu-chu-" is the sound of a mouse squeaking. Pikapika is also the onomatopoeia for sparkling.

Raichu - Rai (雷) is from "raimei" (雷鳴), meaning thunder. Raikou's name has the same reasoning. Chu is still from the sound that mice make.

Zubat - "Zu" is the "sound" of disappointment, as you might see written in manga. This might not be related to the name's origin, but it makes some sense considering how disappointing it is to encounter another Zubat.

(Sources: 1, 2)
Kabuto - A samurai (or other variety of) helmet. Horseshoe crabs are also called "kabutogani" (or simply "kabuto"), which simply means "helmet crab".
Wooper - "Wooper Loopers" were the name of a marketed pet salamander (axolotl, actually) which became a fad in Japan.
Ho-oh - Seriously just the Japanese word for "phoenix". The Japanese name of the mythical Chinese firebird, which is pretty much like a phoenix in that it's fiery, mythical, and a bird, but different because it doesn't keep reviving itself. [Thanks to the tip from wonkydonky of Reddit]
Kyogre - "Kai" is a reading of 海(sea), as in 海王星(kaiousei), which means Neptune, the king of the sea. I know you guys are gonna mess this up, so let me clarify: 海(sea) by itself is usually pronounced "umi", but when used in other words it can be pronounced "kai" and still carries the meaning of "sea". This is the same way that the "rai" in Raichu and Raikou works.
Pachirisu - "Pachipachi" is the sound of electric crackling and "risu" means squirrel.
Darkrai - This name combines the English and Japanese words for dark, "dark" and "kurai".

Darumaka - This one comes from the traditional Japanese / Zen Buddhist doll, the daruma.

Zoroark - The "ark" in Zoroark probably comes from the prefix "arch-", but "aku" also means "evil" in Japanese. Zoroark's name would be written as "Zoroa-ku" in Japanese, so when you write it that way, it ends in "aku".
Tornados, Thundurus, and Landorus are based on the gods of wind, thunder/lightning, and fertility, Fuujin, Raijin, and Inari respectively.
Dedenne - "Den" is a reading of 電 as in 電気 (denki), meaning electricity.

For more Pokemon stuff, check out Postcards from Pokearth. Or for more stuff about Japanese, check out this article on my other blog, 3 Reasons to Give Up On Ever Learning Japanese.
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