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Posts Tagged ‘Wii’

Force Majeure

October 12th, 2008 No comments

Star Wars are breaking out all over with a pair of recent projects further expanding the scope of George Lucas’ private universe.

The weekly, computer animated Clone Wars series has begun airing on Cartoon Network. It’s much like the recent theatrical film: it’s impossible for me to become invested in the characters, but at least there are lots of pretty things blowing up.

The most recent episode was rather neat in a way that only old-school fans would likely appreciate, at last paying off a design concept from more than thirty years ago.

In the original Star Wars, one of the Rebel ships was the “Y-Wing fighter” (below, left) which got its name because the top view resembles a capital letter Y. The craft was given a “stripped-down” look, in part to appeal to Lucas’ love of hot rods. The idea, as related in books of the day, was that the Y-Wings were originally sleek spaceships that were such a pain to maintain that the Rebel techs removed their outer plating.

I had thought that we might eventually see these sleeker Y-Wings in the prequels, which very deliberately started out with a design aesthetic emphasizing smooth lines and unbroken surfaces. The idea there was that with each subsequent film, the ships would come ever closer to the angular, utilitarian look of the original trilogy. I was sure that Y-Wings would make an appearance in Episode III, and disappointed when they didn’t.

As you can probably gather from a couple paragraphs above, Clone Wars stepped in to complete the circle, with Anakin Skywalker leading a Y-Wing squadron (below, right) in a bombing run on General Grievous’ battle cruiser. It was a nice Easter Egg for us old-timers.

The other recent attempt by Lucasfilm to milk the cash Bantha is the long-gestating The Force Unleashed video game/comic book/novel/toy line. The game was delayed several times, coming out nearly a year after its initially announced due date. (The toy tie-ins arrived on the shelves eight or nine months ago.)

The Force Unleashed is a more ambitious effort than Lucas’ first attempt at building a multi-media event around a non-movie storyline: the ill-fated Shadows of the Empire. This time, the setting is between the two film trilogies, a couple of years before Luke Skywalker’s battle against the Death Star. Luke’s nowhere to be found, though; instead the main character is “Darth Vader’s Secret Apprentice.” In another fan-friendly nod to us old-school fanboys, his nickname is Starkiller, Luke’s original surname in the early script drafts.

Starkiller isn’t just some punk farmer whining about his moisture vaporators. Don’t get me wrong, he is a whiny punk, but he’s also the baddest-assed bad-ass that ever swung a lightsaber. The game amps his Force powers up to absurd levels; Episode III Yoda’s got nothing on this emo kid.

The storyline (which is presumably fleshed out in the novelization) has an interesting core, with Vader sending Starkiller out in search of the remaining hidden Jedi Masters, all the while plotting to use his apprentice to overthrow the Emperor. (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD: skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know.) The twist is that the entire thing is an elaborate plot orchestrated by Vader (with the Emperor’s blessing) to lure the Empire’s enemies into open rebellion. Starkiller is tasked to found the Rebel Alliance so that Vader can capture the lot for public execution. Naturally, the apprentice turns on his masters and frees the prisoners at the cost of his own life. I don’t know that I find it necessary for the Rebel Alliance to have a secret origin story, but I can appreciate the irony of the Emperor setting into motion the army that eventually brings down the Sith. (END SPOILER.)

In Entertainment Weekly’s review of the game, they compare it to the Grand Theft Auto series, something I hadn’t considered. However, it makes a lot of sense; in both games, you play a morally-challenged character who kills hundreds, possibly thousands of sentient beings. And like GTA, I’ve found it quite impossible to NOT accidentally kill innocent bystanders. When our emo boy starts whipping out his Force, he wrecks pretty much everything in sight.

One difference here, though, is that in The Force Unleashed, you’re supposed to be the good guy. Sort of. When you start out you’re very much in full-on Sith-wannabe mode, not letting anything stand between you and the Jedi you’re hunting. But as the story progresses Starkiller goes on a familiar redemptive path…except that the murder rate never decreases. Sure, most of the time you’re Force-choking stormtroopers or (my favorite) tossing them into the Death Star’s planet-destroying laser, but there’s almost no one, friend or foe, that you don’t wind up either trying to kill or claiming as collateral damage.

Not saying that I’m not enjoying it. I especially like the visceral feel of the Wii version, in which you literally punch the air to create your Force blasts. And throwing stormtroopers into bottomless chasms never gets old. But, as was the case when Darth Vader’s one redemptive act in Return of the Jedi somehow washed away twenty years of sins, it’s a little hard to swallow that I’m getting away with being the hero after my epic mass murder spree.

Forty-Four

July 27th, 2008 No comments

Today I turned forty-four, which is least fifteen too many. Despite that, it’s been a good day. We borrowed our niece and nephew for the weekend, and have spent much of the time down in the basement with the Wii.

Right now, Vic and Kelly (the niece) are in the other room playing Wii Sports Baseball. One of the things I love about the game is the way it randomly fills out the team rosters with whatever Miis happen to be stored on the system. So it is that the players include our friends Dave L., Rob, Chris and Christine, plus such luminaries as Mr. T, Weird Al, Mr. Spock, Einstein and Adolf Hitler. In my just-completed match against David (the nephew), Adolf knocked one of the park. That’s Hitler for you!

My birthday turned out to have an unintentional Lego Indiana Jones theme, in that Vic bought me both the Wii video game and one of the building sets: the temple from the first few minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Cool!

And there were brownies. Yay!

In Case Anyone Wondered What I’ll Be Doing On November 13

September 14th, 2007 No comments

Categories: Videogames Tags: , ,

I Need Friends!

September 6th, 2007 No comments

For the past few days I’ve been playing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, a new Wii game that’s getting stellar reviews. I’ve been eager to try out a first-person shooter on the Wii, so I cashed in some trade credit at GameStop and picked up a copy.

As was the case with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3 is my introduction to one of Nintendo’s core franchises. Therefore, I’m a bit unclear on the background. I appear to be a female bounty hunter named Samus who wears a kick-ass powersuit with a gun for one arm and a grapple for the other. I’m fighting some “pirates” which really seem more like generic, spiky, alien beasts than anything resembling Johnny Depp. Every once in a while, I run into an evil version of myself. And, for reasons unknown, I can turn into a ball.

Actually, I quite like the bit with the ball. It reminds me of the classic arcade game Marble Madness, only with a lot less falling into bottomless pits. The “morph ball” mode is primarily used to enter various tubes and ducts to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. In some cases, it’s made clear that these tubes are used for maintenance, which suggests to me that in the world of Metroid, janitors are required to roll themselves to work.

The Wii controls are a lot of fun. The Wiimote acts as the gun arm, and allows you to steer yourself just by pointing. The Nunchuk is the grapple, and one has to flick it forward and back to rip free loose objects and swing across gaps.

And I don’t care what anyone says about the Wii running an outdated graphics engine, the game looks gorgeous even on my HD set. The alien environments are spectacular.

That’s not to say that everything is rosy in Metroid World. For a first-person shooter, the game seems to heavily favor its puzzle content. Lots of locked doors with unnecessarily complicated mechanisms that make me wonder how the janitors even reach their roll-tubes in the morning. Most adversaries I’ve encountered so far are pushovers, except of course for the bosses. While the latter aren’t impossible to beat by any means, it’s a matter of shooting, and shooting, and shooting some more, slowly wearing down their long health bars.

I’ve also been annoyed by some of the arbitrary impediments I’ve encountered. For example, passages which are blocked by ice that is inexplicably untouchable by my vast array of weaponry. My built-in scanner says that this ice can be melted by a high-temperature source, which apparently doesn’t apply to me, even though I piss energy beams. Likewise, many barricades are made of materials which can only be penetrated by a specific weapon, and of course, I usually don’t have the one in question. When I scan an object (one does a lot of scanning in this game), I’ll typically get a message like “This door is made of Mergatroid*,” and then it’s a matter of both finding the anti-Mergatroid missile and remembering where you needed it in the first place.

*Possibly not an actual material used in the game.

Finally–and this is something I only now discovered–unlocking certain content on the disc requires one to earn credits of various colors. Most of them are gained by scanning new items or performing certain tasks, but the green credits (which are part of the price of every unlockable) can only be obtained by finding “friends vouchers” which must be traded with gamers on your online “friends” list. From my perspective, there are three problems with this:

  • I don’t have a wireless connection to the Internet.
  • I don’t have any friends who own a Wii.
  • I don’t have any friends who also own Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

So, there you go, all of the bonus unlockables are completely unavailable to me. Granted, they’re nothing all that special (bumper stickers for your ship, a Mii “bobblehead,” and such), but still, it’s a pisser to have a game that demands that you interact with other gamers. Here’s the best bit: it doesn’t otherwise include a multiplayer mode.

It’s not a deal-breaker, but as a sign of things to come in the digital gaming frontier, I can’t say that I’m taking it well.

Categories: Videogames Tags: , ,