Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pokemon: Chamo-Chamo ☆ Pretty ♪ Vol. 1 - English translation

Vol. 1 - Vol. 2 - Vol. 3
For the first time ever (as far as I know), Yumi Tsukirino's manga, Chamo-Chamo ☆ Pretty ♪, has been translated to English! For legal reasons, I don't want to say that I was the one who translated it, but, yeah, I was the one who translated it. This manga is out of print and not available in English, but if you want to support the author, here are her other works.

And here are some sample pages from my English translation (read right to left): 
(Download links are below)
(Chapter 3)
(Chapter 4)

(Chapter 9)
Download (.zip 89 MB, 127 pages, 69 files)
Google Drive (Old, lossy version)

Read online:
Imgur (Temporary)

Update: Vol. 2 is over here! And here's Vol. 3!

More translations by me:
Boku no Natsuyasumi 3
Kino's Journey Vol.5 Ch.2: Land of Permitted Murder

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Tribute to Nintendo WFC

Update: The powers of hacking, modding, and homebrew have come through! Here's how to play online after Nintendo's servers are offline.

As of May 20, 2014, the online service used by most DS and Wii games, the Nintendo Wifi Connection, will be shut down. It's a sad day, since I had a lot of good times on many of the games that use Nintendo WFC. So here's a tribute to all of my favorite online Nintendo games since November of 2005 when the service started.

Mario Kart DS
(Image source)
The year leading up to Mario Kart DS filled the Nintendo NSider Forums with hype for online gaming and the boards were fraught with baseless rumors and potential hacks that promised to get the DS online earlier than the official service. None of them followed through (except for a trick that allowed you to download demos wirelessly from a PC), so when the first online game was released, there was much rejoicing. I didn't yet have wireless internet at my house, so I took a walk around the neighborhood in an attempt to steal someone else's internet. It didn't work, probably because the servers were down on release day, but we soon got wireless internet of our own and I spent many hours racing online, perfecting snaking, designing my avatar (a picture of a Fawful, detailed pixel by pixel), and competing with internet friends from around the world, namely Wario7, who was a beast at PRBing (prolonged rocket boosting). Out of every Mario Kart game, this was the one that I put the most time into and it was all thanks to online play (and all of my friends having it).

Metroid Prime Hunters
As a Metroid game, Metroid Prime Hunters was a disappointment for me in the single player department. But as an FPS, it was more fun than I could've imagined a game being on a handheld system at the time. Online multiplayer was a blast to play and, once again, my friends and I played the heck out of it, mastering each map and getting good with particular characters (Sylux and Trace for me). This game also had lots of stats available, not just in-game, but viewable on the official Nintendo WFC website, which could be used to see your stats and your friends' stats. Unfortunately, as time passed, the online multiplayer degenerated into an arms race of figuring out the many exploitable glitches and worse, outright cheating with Action Replay. Still, it was one of my favorite online gaming experiences and I'm not even that into FPS games.

Animal Crossing: Wild World and City Life
My sister and I were pretty obsessed with Animal Crossing on GameCube, so when Wild World allowed us to visit other towns online, I, at least, was thrilled. The fun didn't just end with hanging out and fishing with friends; playing online became the biggest money-making opportunity in the game. I would buy as many turnips as I could, then sell them in a town with high prices, or, when my town had high prices, I would allow others to sell in my town for a percentage of their profits. Then there was Nookbay, an auction site styled after eBay, but for buying and selling Animal Crossing items. Since regular items could easily be hacked in with Action Replay, hand-made patterns were a hot commodity and I made bank designing and selling these. And while cheating did devalue regular items and later even made it possible to destroy other people's towns, it also made available "not used" items like invisible chairs and, in City Folk, hacked DLC like lightsabers. Some people with AR even held events in their modified towns where people could race through a maze of rocks and pitfalls to win prizes. It was a good time for all.

At last, the Pokemon series was playable online and that meant lots of trading, battling, and scowling at people requesting level 5 legendaries. In a way, online trading took away the fun of collecting pokemon, especially due to the ease of cheating any pokemon into existence. But, on the other hand, battling online was a fantastic way to see new strategies and come to an understanding that there are people far better and far worse than you. And also that chivalry is dead and you will never get a true win without your opponent disconnecting in a fit of rage (this was also the case in MKDS and MPH). Battling in Pokemon Battle Revolution was even better because you could dress up your character to be ridiculous and name them something stupid before beating your opponent to the ground.

Mario Strikers Charged
(Via IGN)
I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, having not played the GameCube version, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of strategy and skill involved in playing this game. The online points and ranking system gave extra incentive to take the game online and try to be the best. My strongest memories of this game were the frustration of being unable to counter annoying "cheap" tactics and of my friend playing the heck out of it until his rank was amazing.

Excitebots: Trick Racing
This may be one of the most underrated and overlooked games on Wii, but it's also one that I had some of the most fun with across any platform that generation. I've written about it before, but in spite of its forgettable visual style, Excitebots' gameplay is incredibly satisfying and unique. Playing online offered a point system like Mario Strikers' and also had unlockable avatars and vehicle skins to show off to your competitors. It was truly a joy to play.

Tetris Party
(Proof of winnership, click to enlarge)
When Tetris Party first came out on Wii Ware, it ran tournaments online and those with the top scores were able to win Wii Points which could be used in the Wii Shop Channel. So yeah, basically you could win real money. In these tournaments, I managed to win back more than the cost of the game and used the extra to play the excellent Art Style games. Even after the tournaments ended, Tetris Party offered a fantastic way to play the timeless puzzle game that managed to draw me away from the addicting Facebook app.

Mario Kart Wii
(Image source)
So what if the motorcycles were overpowered and the graphics were kinda meh; Mario Kart Wii improved the online play of Mario Kart by leaps and bounds. Out of everything though, I most enjoyed comparing my Time Trials records with the worldwide bell curve and participating in the limited-time tournaments on modified versions of existing tracks or entirely new courses. As always, I also liked watching my rating go up as I won more races. Perhaps the coolest thing was all the custom tracks that could be hacked in and played online. Unfortunately, I never got around to playing them... until today!! So, uh, yeah, I should probably get playing those since my time is running out. Here's hoping the modding community finds a way to bring the Wii (and DS) back online through other means.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Ha. Playing online in Brawl. I tried that like once.

These were my memories, but I want to hear yours too! Leave them in the comments; I won't judge you if you cry as you reminisce. Alas, the life of a game is too brief.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Games Aren't Getting Easier; They're Getting Better

Who hasn't fondly reminisced about the old days of gaming when games were challenging and didn't hold your hand all the way through? Games nowadays are just too easy, right? Well... they may seem that way, and there certainly are plenty of games that go too far with the hand-holding and dumbed down difficulty, but I'd argue that most of the apparent decrease in difficulty is due more to improved game design and personal experience.

Wandering around for hours to find the next plot point or solve an unintuitive puzzle wasn't difficult, it was just bad game design.

Or in the case of Simon's Quest,
horribly translated hints. (via CastlevaniaCrypt)
Look, I agree that hand-holding and unnecessarily long and distracting tutorials in games are a problem, but offering no direction whatsoever can also be a problem. Many difficult classic games are remembered as such because of stupid game design, like obscure rocks that need to be hit or fake walls with vague or nonexistent clues to their whereabouts. This sort of wandering around looking for magic invisible buttons isn't difficult, nor is it fun; it is simply time consuming. Even modern games that are famous for letting you run free and without direction like Dark Souls still offer subtle clues and don't have as impossible-to-find secrets as many classic games. In the same vein, RPG bosses that require you to level grind to beat them aren't hard; they're just a waste of time.

Limited lives and an inability to save only made games more of a hassle, not more difficult.

Battletoads was hard, but having limited
 lives and continues was just stupid.
Another part of the reason classic games were hard is that you often had to beat them in one sitting and often with limited lives and continues. If you messed up too much in one spot, it was Game Over and you'd have to start all the way from the beginning of the game. Nowadays, that is mostly unheard of and lives (if there are any at all) and checkpoints abound. And of course the technical limitations that prevented saving are long gone. But this doesn't mean that the games are easier. If you've proven that you're able to beat a certain level or part of a level, it only makes sense for the game to save your progress and let you continue from that point rather than playing earlier levels and areas that you've already beaten over and over again. Forcing the player to replay parts they've already beaten only artificially increases the difficulty and playtime, but does so at the expense of enjoyment. Want an example? I have beaten the infamously difficult Ninja Gaiden on NES. It took me about six hours, which isn't all that long of a game really, but if dying to the last boss didn't make you replay the last set of levels, I probably could've finished in half the time. It was on the right track by offering unlimited continues, but it ruined it all by making you replay the hardest part of the game each time you wanted another try at the final boss.

More control means more ways to save yourself.

(via MarioWiki)
Most classic games didn't have very complicated controls, probably because they didn't have many buttons to work with or very powerful consoles. However, as time progressed, developers gained the ability to give the player more control over their character. When you compare Super Mario World to New Super Mario Bros., you'll find that much of the apparent ease in the latter is due to the ability to wall jump and spin in midair. I'm a firm believer that one of the most important aspects of game design is a feeling of control; being unable beat an enemy because you can't aim your gun anywhere but straight is just annoying. However, I'll admit that this point isn't completely watertight, because lacking abilities can be used well if the game is designed around it (Mega Manand because increasing control can make games easier if the level design isn't changed to match the player's new abilities.

You got better too.

My cousin and I.
(Video of me growing up with gaming here.)
This should be obvious, but if you've been playing video games for long enough to remember the "hard" games that I'm talking about, much of the reason modern games seem easier can probably be attributed to your experience. The more you play games, the better you get, and even if it isn't the same game, some of that skill is transferable. It's likely that you have a much better understanding of what to look for and how to play games now than you did as a kid. From watching my young cousin play everything from Kirby's Adventure to Super Mario 3D World, I've seen that she has about as much trouble playing new games as she does old games and that's because she lacks the twenty or so years of experience that I have. I don't think that kids these days suck at video games as much as people say; it's just that they've only just started playing.

Among both modern and classic games there are games that are harder than the norm or mind-numbingly easy. I have my doubts about whether it can accurately be stated that old games were more difficult when taking into account that much of their difficulty was artificially created through time-consuming lack of direction and repetition. Once again, I know that there are exceptions among both groups of games, but I still think that modern games are easier in appearance only thanks to better game design, technical capabilities, and more experienced players.

Disagree or have more examples to back me up? Sound off in the comments!
Also, check out this classic game that was actually pretty easy or this one that was hard in most of the right ways.
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