Game Developers on Acid: Megaman 2

Probably not the developers' fault. Still terrible, though.

Probably not the developers' fault. Still terrible, though.

Look, I’m not here to bash Megaman 2. Far from it. It’s one of my favourite games of all-time, and it is undoubtedly the crowning moment of awesomeness for the entire Megaman series (with Megaman 3 a close second, naturally).

While we’ve all heard the tale that Keiji Inafune and his team at Capcom somehow managed to produce this epic masterpiece during their spare time — a true labour of love, if you will — that doesn’t mean that the developers are completely infallible, however. In fact, some of the stuff in Megaman 2 is absolutely batshit insane, enough to make you scratch your head (although probably not literally, unless you have lice or something) and mutter to yourself, “just what in the blue hell were they thinking?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Subterranean Fire-Breathing Dogs

Woodman, wanting to stay close to his roots, lives in a forest. Okay, makes sense to me. Forests usually contain animals. Yup, I’m with you there. One of the animals featured in Woodman’s menagerie of arboreal terror is a wolf. Nothing out of the ordinary. Things start getting a little bit fuzzy, however, when you realize that these wolves can only be found in underground caves. Oh, and they spit fireballs, too.

There are many things wrong with this picture.

There are many things wrong with this picture.

Okay, the kickass dragon at the end of the first Wily Castle level, it makes perfect sense for that guy to shoot fireballs. You know why? Because it’s a freakin’ dragon. But a dog? That lives in a cave? And shoots fireballs in a perfect parabolic arc? That just makes my brain hurt.

Forest, Rainforest … What’s the Difference?

Wrong type of forest, jerk.

Wrong type of forest, jerk.

While we’re on the topic of retarded enemies found in Woodman’s stage, there’s one bad guy that just doesn’t seem to fit in with all of the others. I can imagine the conversion between Inafune and his crew going something along these lines:

Inafune: “Okay, so we’ve got bats, rabbits, subterranean fire-breathing dogs, and rampaging chickens … but we still need some more enemies in this level. What other animals live in a forest?”

Developer: “Gorillas?”

Inafune: “Yeah, sure, why the fuck not.”

Dr. Wily’s Greatest Creation — Flying Hamburgers

These guys didn’t make any sense when I was in the second grade, and they sure as hell don’t make any sense now. Yes, I’m talking about the ridiculous rotating robots that hover about the territories of Heatman and Crashman and can only be described as flying hamburgers.

Would you like fries with that?

Would you like fries with that?

Could Dr. Wily have created a patrol drone that was any less threatening? Well, probably. Maybe flying robo-kittens wrapped in pink ribbons, perhaps. But at least they would theoretically have claws and mouths with which to shoot fireballs at you. The flying hamburger, on the other hand, just spins and slow bumps into you. Truly terrifying.

The Fish That Shoots Shrimp

Not as bad as the robotic Richard Simmons, of course.

Not as bad as the robotic Richard Simmons, of course.

Bubbleman: “I suggest you leave immediately.”

Megaman: “Or what? You’ll release the fish, or the shrimp, or the fish with shrimp in their mouths so when they bark they shoot shrimp at you? Well go ahead, do your worst!”

Yes, it’s true. The Simpsons outright stole the idea of dogs with bees in their mouths from Keiji Inafune and Megaman 2.

Like any giant enemy in the Megamaniverse, the fish has to shoot something, but since it lives underwater, even the developers realized that fireballs were out of the question. But why rocket-propelled shrimp? I would have accepted other fish (in the same vein as the frogs that spit little tiny frogs at you), or bubbles, or even electricity from its hanging bulb. But shrimp? Really?

Suicide Crabs

I went to Bubbleman's stage and all I got was a bunch of crabs.

I went to Bubbleman's stage and all I got was a bunch of crabs.

Still in Bubbleman’s realm for a moment, at the very end of the level you encounter a rather odd enemy — the rare flying crab. At least, it’s possible that they’re flying crabs, descending from the heavens to destroy Megaman like a bunch of avenging crustacean angels.

Of course, it could be that the crabs simply possess lemming-like qualities, causing them to leaping en masse over the edge of the waterfall that is prominently featured in the background of the level. They don’t even try to land on Megaman’s platform (but if they do, hey, whatever), instead choosing to blissfully plunge to their watery graves. If this is indeed the case, it would make the suicide crabs perhaps the stupidest AI Dr. Wily has ever programmed.

Yes, even dumber than the flying hamburgers. At least those make a conscious effort to annoy Megaman.

Hothead Gets Lost

Alright, let’s take a long, hard look at the following enemy:

Hey guys, I'm here for the party. Guys? Hello?

Hey guys, I'm here for the party. Guys? Hello?

He’s red. He’s got a big flame on his head. He throws angry little fireballs at you. His name is Hothead. So naturally he’s found in Heatman’s level, right?

Bahahaha! Keiji Inafune laughs at your pathetic logic!

Hothead, the enemy robot that perhaps fully captures the essence of heat and fire (yes, even moreso than Zippoman — er, I mean, Heatman), is actually only found in Quickman’s level. Buh? That would be like having the fat guys with fans in their stomachs appear not in Airman’s stage, but in Woodman’s. Was this a programming error? Deliberate mistake? Inside joke? Seriously, what’s the deal here?

Wily’s Not Even Trying Anymore

Wily intended to sell these in Australia.

Wily intended to sell these in Australia.

What is this thing? A boomerang dispenser? Sentient springs? Wobbly lasers? Come on, Dr. Wily, have a little pride in your work and at least construct something useful for a change.

Indeed, there’s a lot of crazy stuff in Megaman 2, and I’m fairly certain that not everything can be attributed to Japanese / North American cultural differences. But hey, the game turned out to be one of the greatest of all-time, so who am I to tell the developers at Capcom what to and what not to smoke while they create their masterpieces?

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Virtual Sports Illustrated News Update, Vol. 2

Today’s top stories from the world of virtual sports:

NBA IN MOURNING AFTER TRAGIC DEATH OF SHAWN KEMP

The NBA and its fans are still in shock following yesterday’s sudden death of Seattle Supersonics power forward Shawn Kemp. During the third quarter of last night’s game versus Atlanta, Kemp spontaneously combusted in a ball of flames, writhing in agony on the court as the blaze engulfed his entire body. Paramedics at the scene extinguished the fire and attempted to resuscitate the fallen superstar, but his injuries were too severe. Kemp was pronounced dead en route to hospital.

RIP Shawn Kemp: 1969 - 1994

RIP Shawn Kemp: 1969 - 1994

Sources from inside the Seattle locker room claim that Kemp had spoken to trainers during halftime with complaints that he was “heating up”. It has been reported that the trainers brushed him off, however, believing that the “Reign Man” was instead referring to the elevated stature of his game that night, having registered an incredible 42 points at the half.

Understandably, Kemp’s teammates are devastated by the sudden passing of the team’s franchise player. “I still can’t believe he’s gone,” said a teary-eyed Detlef Schrempf. “I mean, he was playing so well. You always hear about a player being ‘on fire’, but I never thought in my wildest dreams that it could, you know, actually happen. I can’t even put into words how I feel at the moment.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern issued the following statement: “The National Basketball Association expresses its deepest condolences to the entire Kemp family, both legitimate and illegitimate. This is a very sad day for the remaining basketball fans across this great country. Please, MJ, with Kemp out of the picture we need you back more than ever. Come on, we both know this baseball thing isn’t gonna work out. Just come back home. Daddy needs you.”

DOPING SCANDAL ROCKS KARTING WORLD

Racing fans across the world were stunned by the news that fan favourite kart racer Yoshi has tested positive for illegal performance-enhancing steroids. As a result of the positive test, Yoshi will forfeit all points earned during this season’s Mario Kart Grand Prix and will be suspended for the entirety of next season. Yoshi had been in second place in the overall GP standings with 24 points, just behind Luigi, who had 36 points.

Alleged doper and disgrace to kart racing.

Alleged doper and disgrace to kart racing.

Mario Kart officials first became suspicious of Yoshi’s conduct following a string of unbelievable second place finishes, including last month’s race on Koopa Beach. At the time, the entire racing community was buzzing about its incredible finish, which saw Yoshi knocked into the last place with only a half-lap to go courtesy of a well-placed Luigi green shell, only to storm back and finish in second place — just milliseconds behind the winner, Luigi.

“I think we all knew, in the back of our minds, that something wasn’t right about the way Yoshi performed on the track”, said fellow kart racer Toad. “You always heard rumours of the rubber bands in his engine, but in the end, I guess his skills were too good to be true, I suppose.”

Others were less forgiving, including his chief rival, Luigi. “Yoshi is a dope fiend and should be banished from this great sport,” he said.

While Yoshi himself declined to comment, his representative issued the following statement on his behalf: “Yoshi! Yoshi yoshi yoshi! Bowowowowow! Yoshi! Brrrrrap! Dum dum dum dum. Yoshi!”

GRETZKY SETS NHL SCORING RECORD AS KINGS BURY HABS

It was a night to remember for #99, as “The Great One” scored 38 goals during the last night’s 61 – 0 romp over the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings got to Patrick Roy early and often, seemingly scoring at will against one of the league’s best netminders.

Los Angeles ran up the score by continuously lobbing the puck on goal from the middle of the ice just outside the Montreal blue line. Time and time again, the puck would sail in a perfect arc up and over Roy, who just stood there at the lip of the crease, seemingly frozen by the ridiculousness of the half-shot / half-dump.

“I don’t know what happened. I just can’t explain it,” said Roy following the game. “Maybe the lights got in my eyes or something. Yeah, that’s it. The lights.”

Patrick Roy fishes yet another puck out of the net.

Patrick Roy fishes yet another puck out of the net.

Montreal coach Jacques Demers took some of the blame for the loss. “I should have recognized the situation and made adjustments on the fly,” he said. “Unfortunately, there was no option in the pause menu to configure my defensive strategy, so really, I was powerless to do anything to affect the outcome of the game.”

BOXING MATCH CANCELLED DUE TO UNRULY FANS

Irate boxing fans are asking for their money back after veteran WVBA referee Mario Mario called off yesterday’s main event at the Iowa State Fair between Glass Joe and Don Flamenco halfway through the second round.

Is Don Flamenco more concerned about his hair than his career?

Is Don Flamenco more concerned about his hair than his career?

The two boxers, both looking to avoid a loss that would send them tumbling down the WVBA rankings, both employed an extremely defensive strategy for the fight — in fact, the first punch wasn’t thrown until approximately 40 seconds into the opening round. Flamenco spent the majority of the round taunting his opponent and asking to be hit, while Glass Joe simply stood his ground, perhaps mesmerized by Flamenco’s world-famous hair. What punches were thrown during the first round were nothing but weak hooks and were few and far between, prompting the fans to boo the two pugilists mercilessly.

When the lack of action spilled into the second round, the fans soon started throwing debris into the ring. With the canvas littered with pop bottles and popcorn bags, Mario had no choice but to call the fight.

“It was-a for the safety of the fighters,” said Mario. “The fans, they were going-a crazy. They wanted blood.”

When reached for comment about the fight, Flamenco simply said: “People like my hair. Don’t mess my hair!”

WVBA officials have not yet decided if the fight will be rescheduled for a later date.

Game Review: Mass Effect

With Mass Effect 2 on the horizon, I doubt anybody really cares about my thoughts regarding the original title. After all, we’re talking about a game that was released way back in November 2007, and by now, anybody that had any remote interest in the game has already played it through numerous times and has since put the game back on the shelf to collect layer upon layer of beautiful dust.

More like "Ass Effect", am I right?

More like "Ass Effect", am I right?

Fortunately for you, dear reader, I simply don’t give a damn that this review is woefully out of date. Yes, much like my notoriously late Fallout 3 review, I’m gonna tell you what I thought of the game anyway, simply because I can …

That is, if I can finally decide what I actually thought about the game.

You see, Mass Effect is a tough nut to crack … it did so many things awesomely right, while at the same time doing so many things terribly wrong, that it all blends together to form some sort of bizarre mutant hybrid of good and evil that, despite its flaws, you simply have to see all the way to the very end. You know, like Bob Saget doing stand-up.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are a few things that I particularly liked and disliked about Mass Effect:

The Incredible Detail of Commander Shepard

If there’s one thing Mass Effect got right, it was the game’s protagonist, Commander Shepard (especially compared to the generic Lone Wanderer found in Fallout 3). On the surface he’s pretty much your run-of-the-mill Bald Space Marine, but through a combination of remarkably competent voice acting and the subtle effects of the initial character creation that can be found throughout the entire game, Commander Shepard really comes to life.

Don't let the generic look fool you.

Don't let the generic look fool you.

While not very in-depth, the choices made at the start of the game regarding Shepard’s upbringing and military history really flesh out his background and provide an additional layer to the game’s narrative. There are no amnesia-riddled angsty teens here — people are well aware of Shepard’s past and will bring it up on numerous occasions through the game, opening up new dialogue options, cinematics, and mission objectives based on what you decided had happened to him before the story begins. This level of detail really gives the impression that this is a living, breathing character who belongs in this world — and not just some random jerk that they pulled off the street to play the role of “hero”.

The Empty Husks of the Other Characters

Outside of Commander Shepard, however, I never really gave six shits about any of the other characters found throughout the game. In particular, Garrus, Wrex, and Tali all join your party within a few minutes of one another near the start of the game — but I’m thinking, who the hell are these people (er, aliens) and why did they decide to join me? The game spends so little time introducing you to these characters before they become part of your squad that it is truly impossible to care for them or understand their goals / motivations.

Yeah, you look cool, but why are you following me?

Yeah, you look cool, but why are you following me?

Of course, I can already hear the fanboys whining that everything you need to know about the characters can be gleamed from the completely optional (and tremendously boring) conversations aboard the Normandy between missions. While this is somewhat true, it would have been much more effective to show the stories and personalities of these characters through action rather than words by having them more actively involved in the main story missions. Only once does this really happen (the scene where Wrex freaks out on Virmire) — a little more of that sort of thing would have been greatly appreciated.

Spectacular Graphics — Most of the Time

Even on my small, non-HD television, it’s easy to see that Mass Effect has incredible graphics. Well, after they’ve completely loaded, that is. Then again, seeing the layers of detail appear one after another as the game loads the environment does provide an interesting glimpse into how the designers created the characters and worlds …

Driving in Space — Not Nearly as Fun as You’d Think

While the main story missions are a lot of fun, the sidequests are … well … not so much. The first step of nearly every sidequest is to land on an uncharted planet and drive your awesome looking tank, the Mako, across the most boring terrain ever conceived by a video game developer. Seriously, each planet consists of a single colour of rock and nothing but bumpy, jagged mountains. No rivers, no trees, no animals, no caves, no lakes of fiery magma … nothing. I suppose they are uncolonized planets for a reason, but still, the driving sections really sucked a lot of the fun out of Mass Effect simply because they were so mind-numbingly boring, tedious, and utterly lacking in the lush detail found throughout the rest of the game.

Looks like fun, right? WRONG.

Looks like fun, right? WRONG.

Of course, what happens when finally climb over that jagged-ass mountain and reach your destination?

Research Outposts — Now Available in Bulk Orders!

Well, on each planet there is either a research outpost, a lab, or a mine. The first time you reach one of these structures, it’s pretty neat. The next time you reach one, however, you get this very uncomfortable sense of deja vu. Wasn’t I already here, you ask yourself? Would BioWare actually be so lame as to actually recycle the floorplan for every single research outpost in the game? Yes. Yes they would.

Perhaps there is a single trusted supplier of research outposts and mining structures that all mercenaries and scientists in the galaxy feel compelled to purchase from, lest they be mocked and heckled by their peers? Or maybe the intergalactic Martha Stewart has discovered the ultimated, undeniable feng shui layout for research outposts?

If there is any upside to the tedious and repetitive nature of these sidequests, it’s that knowing the layout of each type of structure ahead of time made the battles much quicker and easier, since you already knew exactly where the enemies would come from and where the crates would be with which to take cover. Not that the battle system needed to be made much easier, mind you …

The World’s Greatest Elevator Simulator!

Do you like elevators? I mean, do you really like elevators? Then you’ll love Mass Effect, where loading times between areas are “masked” (and I use that in the loosest sense of the word) behind thrilling elevator journeys! Can you feel the excitement? BECAUSE I CAN!

This image is actually burned into my TV.

This image is actually burned into my TV.

Yes, the game has its flaws (and I didn’t even get into the incredibly frustrating inventory system, or the fact that money is pretty much useless throughout the entire game, or the fact that the game isn’t as long or as open-ended as you’re led to believe). But despite these flaws, I still found Mass Effect to be a very enjoyable adventure. The story was solid (and easily accessible for people like myself who aren’t massive sci-fi nerds), the combat was acceptable (albeit rather repetitive at times), and the method of navigating through dialogue trees was extremely intuitive. Plus, it actually had a climactic ending with a decent final battle (unlike the letdown that was the final chapter of Fallout 3), so that already bumps it up a few points in my book.

In conclusion, Mass Effect gets a definite thumbs up from me. Now, which ancient game will I unearth and review next?

The Greatest Game and/or Movie Never Made

Ah, dreams. The brain’s equivalent of terrible late night television, where you sit back and watch retarded shit that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but you can’t get up to change the channel because it’s 3 a.m. and you’re too tired to move an inch.

Yes, everybody has dreams. Usually they mean nothing, and more often than not, you forget absolutely everything about them the minute you wake up, no matter how cool you insist they were (even if you can’t recall any of the details). Last night, however, the dream I had was just so insane, so memorable, and so fantastically awesome, I had to put it into words.

First off, it started with me pitching a video game to somebody. Not sure who, or for what reason, but I was involved in some sort of brainstorming session for a new video game. My big idea? A crossover between Megaman X and Metal Gear Solid. I have no idea why it was those two games, as I haven’t played either in quite some time.

Anyway, as I was pitching the game, I could envision the introductory screen. It started out in 16-bit SNES style, very similar to the intro to just about any Megaman game out there — a series of static images with a bunch of text underneath. In this case, the intro talked about the fact that Megaman and Zero had set out on yet another adventure, but they mysteriously vanished and all attempts to contact them failed. The calls from headquarters were never returned …

Hold on a blank black screen for a few seconds, and then …

*BLEEP* *BLEEP*

The familiar sound of Solid Snake’s Codec!

Snake? Snake! SNAAAAAAAKE!

Snake? Snake! SNAAAAAAAKE!

The two-panel Codec screen pops up, with Solid Snake on one side and Col. Roy Campbell on the other. I guess it would be up to Solid Snake to rescue Megaman and Zero and save the day!

Hey, if he can appear in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, why not?

At this point, the person I was pitching the game to decided to interject — what if the Umbrella Corporation was behind the disappearance of Megaman and Zero? That way, we could have a triple-crossover with the Resident Evil franchise! Solid Snake could explore the mansion! Yeah! Well, for whatever reason, I wasn’t a big fan of this suggestion, pointing out that doing so would make absolutely no sense.

You know, because Megaman meets Solid Snake does.

Now, here’s where things get a little messed up. I’m not sure if I woke up briefly or what, but the dream takes a radical new direction from here on it. For starters, it’s no longer from my point of view or about me pitching a stupid game to another person. Second, it’s more like a movie than it is a video game — or at the very least, it’s gameplay from the video game I had described, but shot and framed in such a way that it quite closely resembled a standard Hollywood action flick.

What "Mondo Metal" is, according to Google.

What "Mondo Metal" is, according to Google Image Search.

Anyway, the game’s hero, Solid Snake, has confronted some generic thug in a warehouse. It should be noted that for whatever reason, Solid Snake is wielding a katana. The thug grabs a couple of swords from a rack (big futuristic-looking scimitar type things), but Solid Snake easily cuts them in half with one swipe of the katana. The useless halves of the thug’s swords clang noisily against the ground. Solid Snake points his katana at the thug’s neck, forcing the thug to shuffle backwards against a wall. While he never takes his eyes off of the katana, the thug smirks, telling Snake that Mondo Metal has much more powerful and advanced weapons that could never be broken by mere steel.

Yes, the big bad guy’s name is apparently Mondo Metal. Your guess is as good as mine.

The thug then informs Snake that he is too late and that Mondo Metal’s plan is already underway, to which Snake gruffly replies (as if he could reply in any other fashion other than gruff): “What, putting everybody on the planet in hives? It’ll never happen.”

CUT TO:

A bunch of giant wasp nest structures, suspended in air by a single helicopter propeller on top. Each “hive” has a cave-like entrance near the top, which is guarded by a guy behind a giant rifle. Dozens of people, all wearing shabby clothes, mill about near the entrace to the hive. They look like prisoners.

And one of the prisoners is Shaq. As in, THE Shaq. And he tells the guard that he has to go into the hive and get his cell phone because he needs to Twitter. Shaq promises he’ll be back in just a second, and the guard agrees (because everybody knows that not allowing Shaq to Twitter would be a crime against humanity). So, Shaq enters the hive.

Moments later he emerges, but not as Shaq, but as his superhero alter-ego, Steel! At the same time, dozens of other costumed superheroes zoom out of the hives in some sort of coordinated effort to escape and overwhelm their captors!

Shaq is awesome.

Shaq is awesome.

The question is, which other superheroes would appear in this dream / movie / game? Well, that decision was all mine, as the viewpoint shifted from Hollywood cinematics to that of some sort all-seeing god — which was apparently me. As the action paused, I could see, in a first-person perspective ripped straight out of a video game, my hand rummaging through a box of old action figures. This box happened to include all of the X-Men action figures I had played with when I was younger, even the duplicates. I eventually grabbed brown Wolverine (as opposed to blue/yellow), blue/white hooded Cyclops (instead of blue/yellow), Sabretooth, Juggernaut, and a couple others. I distinctly remember passing over Banshee, even muttering “You suck, Banshee” while flinging the figure into some sort of abyss.

You suck, Banshee.

You suck, Banshee.

Then, all of my chosen X-Men characters emerge from the hive and start fighting with the guards. However, the action is interrupted by a female voice (not entirely sure who or why), which tells me that it makes no sense for only mutants and superheroes to be held captive in the hives — there should be some regular people imprisoned as well, and these people should get caught up in the moment and try to fight against their captors, too.

Yeah, about that cheese ...

Yeah, about that cheese ...

So, we switch back to the “God’s Toybox” point of view, where I rummage through the remaining action figures and settle on some generic black dude in a red shirt. I then decide that it sort of looks like Steve Urkel from Family Matters, to which it instantly does become an action figure of Steve Urkel, complete with the following ability — when you squeeze both his legs together, a little voicebox in his chest says “Got any cheeeeeese?”

Anyway, Urkel, wearing a bedsheet cape, also emerges from the hive and starts flying around.

And then I woke up. At least, that’s the last I can remember of it, anyway.

So, did I just imagine the plot to the greatest video game and/or movie that will never get made? Or am I just crazy?

Probably a little of both.

Game Review: Fallout 3

Although most of the traffic to this blog seems to be coming from Google Image Searches for items such as “Vigo”, “Magus”, and “Ovechkin”, there might be a handful of you out there that actually take the time to read the nonsense that I type into this thing. And if you’re one of those select few heroes of the blogosphere, you’ve probably noticed that Steve McCutchen’s Cavalcade of Awesomeness has been a bit of a ghost town as of late. No, my friends, I haven’t been critically wounded. Instead, I’ve just been spending far too much time roaming the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3 for the Xbox 360.

Yes, I know, I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to reviewing this game, seeing as how it came out last fall and has already seen three expansion packs come its way. However, it was never really a high priority. For starters, I wasn’t a crazed Fallout fanboy clamouring to get my grubby paws on the newest iteration of the franchise. Sure, I had tried the original, but could never really get into it. Something about the slow and clunky battle system, isometric viewpoint, and annoying random encounters on the world map that didn’t really click with me, I guess.

A very excellent game ... but you already knew that.

A very excellent game ... but you already knew that.

Second, I had never played Oblivion, so I was completely unfamiliar with the game engine that Fallout 3 would be built upon, and more important, rather apathetic about the whole third-person / first-person Western RPG genre as a whole.

However, I had heard (and seen) good things about Fallout 3, and with no game lined up to play after defeating Twilight Princess, I finally decided to give it a shot.

In short, the game is really, really good. Quite excellent, in fact. Great atmosphere, pretty graphics, an extensive levelling system that lets you create a variety of character types, some nice dashes of humour thrown in now and again … but that’s not what this review is about.

Everybody already knows that the game is super awesome. Instead, here’s my take on some of the minor, nitpicking issues I had with Fallout 3:

The World’s Greatest Scavenger Hunt!

So I spent upwards of 45 hours completing the main quest and quite a few of the sidequests scattered throughout the Capital Wasteland. But enquiring minds need to know — just how many of those hours were spent slooooooowly scanning every desk, shelf, cabinet, and locker in DC for loot? Far too many, by my estimation. And what is the reward for pillaging an entire city? Sure, you might find a useful item or two, but it’s mostly a bunch of tin cans, mugs, scrap metal, and financial clipboards. I can’t feed my family with financial clipboards, dammit!

On that note, why are the clipboards and plates and drinking glasses even in the game? Mere cannon fodder for the incredibly shitty Rock-It Launcher? No … I refuse to believe that’s the case. There must be more. Bethesda Softworks must be working on an expansion that will introduce the ultimate in protective clothing: Clipboard Armor. Schematics for this item will call for seven Clipboards, Wonderglue, two Fission Batteries, and a Toaster. Yeah … that would rock.

The World’s Greatest Inventory Management Simulator!

So what happens after you’ve unleashed your inner kleptomaniac and shoved everything that isn’t nailed down into your pockets? Well, you get very heavy and unable to move, of course! It’s completely natural to be able to carry a dozen different weapons on your person at any time, but if you try to add one more bottle of whiskey to the pile, your boots suddenly turn to lead. And when that happens, you get to experience the ultimate thrill ride of sorting through your inventory and deciding which crap you really need and which crap you can nonchalantly toss on the floor until you’re light enough to walk at a non-herniated pace.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

And don’t think the fun stops just because you’ve levelled up a bit and boosted your strength so that you can carry a few more pounds of junk. By the time that happens, you’re packing super heavy T-51b Power Armor and Gatling Lasers, which means you can actually carry less stuff before having to go through your inventory again and again every time you want to pick up a new item.

Architectural Diversity — The First Casualty of War!

There’s a lot of area to explore in the Capital Wasteland. Regrettably, you won’t really want to, because it all looks the same. Whether you go north or south, it’s the same dreary landscape, over and over and over again. When you finally make it to a settlement, it’s the same type of house over and over and over again. And whether it’s a Vault, the Nuka-Cola factory, an aircraft carrier, a robot factory, or a food processing plant, every single major set piece in the game must have used the same interior decorator, because it all looks freakin’ identical. It takes some of the thrill out exploration when the new place you just discovered looks exactly the same as the last dozen places you discovered.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Biodiversity — The Second Casualty of War!

Okay, so a nuclear war wiped out American civilization as we know out. Towns annihilated, infrastructure completely wiped out … and damn near every single species of animal totally vapourized? It would seem so, because the only living things inhabiting the Wastes are mutants, ghouls, dogs, ants, molerats, scorpions, bears, crabs, and deathclaws. For a game as in-depth as Fallout 3, that’s a rather piss-poor variety of things to shoot at over the course of your lengthy adventure. You can only headshot so many Super Mutants before it grows tiresome, you know? Where are my mutated eagles, giant sandworms, feral warthogs, sharks with laser beams, and other assorted horrors of the apocalypse? Not in this game, that’s for damn sure. Just lots and lots of Super Mutants.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Think of it this way — Kirby had to face a greater variety of enemies than the Lone Wanderer. And that ain’t right.

Weapons, Weapons Everywhere!

So there are only a few different enemies you can encounter in the Wastes. Not to worry, Bethesda understood that this would cause some concern among players, so they created hundreds of different weapons with which to slay these fiendish beasts!

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you’ll go through the entire game without using any of your awesome Mini-Nukes or Bottle Cap Mines or Plasma Rifles, simply because you’ll want to save your ammo for when you face something really big and nasty beyond your run of the mill Raiders and Super Mutants, right? I mean, when you finally have to take out the Enclave, you’ll need all the firepower you have to get through the final showdown, right? Well …

The Ending Sucked (SPOILER ALERT)!

Too bad, because there is no epic final battle! Psyche! Destroy the Enclave by whispering sweet nothings into its master computer! Watch the base explode, content with the knowledge that you didn’t get to blow up a single thing! To top it all off, if your speech skill is high enough, you can simply tell the last boss (if he can even be called that) to beat it! Scram! Take a hike! Hit the road! Can you say climactic showdown for the ages? No? Me neither.

That, and the fact that Fawkes refuses to activate the Purifier on your behalf, despite the fact that it’s already been established that he’s immune to radiation, is just plain stupid. Destiny my ass, you stupid mutie. Now get in the box and take one for the team.

So there you have it — my take on Fallout 3. A great game that has its flaws, to be sure, but still a great game nonetheless. If you haven’t played it, do so. You won’t regret it. Just make sure you don’t have any pressing commitments, because this game will swallow your soul. Seriously.

The Lone Wanderer strolls through another generic settlement.

The Lone Wanderer strolls through another generic settlement.

Replay: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Look out Link, that wolf's gonna eat you!

Look out Link, that wolf's gonna eat you!

I recently replayed Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Nintendo GameCube. It’s my first time playing through the game since I beat it when it first came out in late 2006, and I must say, it still holds up rather nicely.

Back when it was released, a lot of people (well, fanboys) complained that Twilight Princess tried too hard to be an Ocarina of Time rip-off and could never live up to the lofty standards of the N64 classic. But those same fanboys were complaining that Wind Waker wasn’t enough of an Ocarina of Time rip-off, so really, there’s no pleasing anybody.

I don’t really see Twilight Princess as a “rip-off” of Ocarina of Time. If anything, I see it as the evolution of Ocarina of Time — it takes all of the elements of the original, and for the most part, refines them and makes them even better. However, a decade from now, will Twilight Princess be regarded in the same way Ocarina of Time is today? No, probably not, but that’s only because the initial “Holy Crap, it’s Zelda in 3D!” moment that can never be duplicated.

That being said, here are a few of my observations from my replay of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:

  • When I first played the game in 2006, I thought the wolf segments were long, tedious, and somewhat difficult. However, playing through the game again made me realize that the wolf segments aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be and are overall a very brief portion of the game as a whole.
  • Link’s advanced swordplay techniques are simply great. Building off of what Wind Waker started, each battle in Twilight Princess can be fought in a variety of different ways. For a series that is famous for a main character wielding a sword (often of the Master variety), it’s about time Link learned a few new moves. Plus, nudging enemies over a cliff and to their doom using the Shield Bash is just too much fun.
  • The Spinner. It was fun while it lasted.

    The Spinner. It was fun while it lasted.

    There are far too many neglected items. In particular, there are far too many items that are only used in the respective dungeon, and then perhaps once or twice on the overworld to get a treasure chest. Spinner, Ball and Chain, Double Clawshot … I’m looking in your direction. The worst offender, however, is undoubtedly the Slingshot, which I used maybe twice during the entire game — first when you have to do some target practice with the kids, and then at the very start of the Forest Temple to kill some spiders hanging from the wall. After that, it was never used again. What a waste.

  • Speaking of items, I was struck by how infrequently I used the classic Zelda items, such as the Boomerang and Bombs. Obviously, the Twilight Princess Gale Boomerang had a more dungeon-oriented  purposed, but in other Zelda titles, the Boomerang was a very useful tool for collecting loose rupees, stunning enemies, etc. In this game? Not so much, thanks to the emphasis on using swordplay to stun and counter enemy attacks.
  • Bombs are even more useless. In most other Zelda games (especially the 2D incarnations), it is common practice to bomb random walls in hopes of opening up new passages. Twilight Princess will have none of that, limiting the use of bombs to a couple of caves on the overworld and blowing up rocks for rupees. Would it have killed the designers to replace some doors and force the player to blow up some walls in a few of the dungeons? That’s part of the very essence of Zelda, and it was sorely lacking in this game. However, I will give credit where credit is due — Bomb Arrows rule.
  • The overworld is awesome and a sheer joy to traverse. It’s huge, it’s varied, and it’s full of life — unlike the bland and dreadfully boring Hyrule Field found in Ocarina of Time. Yes, you eventually cease to explore the map and simply warp everywhere you want to go, but that’s the case in every Zelda game.
This version of Hyrule Field is simply amazing.

This version of Hyrule Field is simply amazing.

  • Dungeons are incredibly linear. With the exception of perhaps the Lakebed Temple, there are very few puzzles to be found and the dungeons are far too easy. Compared to classics such as the Water Temple or Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time, or the Stone Temple in Majora’s Mask, the dungeons in Twilight Princess are rather unremarkable.
  • The game is still a lot of fun on a second playthrough — something that can’t really be said for its predecessor, Wind Waker. While I absolutely love Wind Waker‘s visual style, the dungeons and overall gameplay are severely lacking (mostly due to the sailing), and it gets to be a bit of a chore when you get to the last couple of dungeons where you have to escort some stupid jerk around the place. Twilight Princess, on the other hand, was fun right to the very end. While the game starts off rather slowly, it does build steam all the way to the end and the climactic battle with Ganondorf.
  • Ganondorf is a total badass (albeit with rather limited screentime). Dying standing up? Yeah, that’s awesome.

All in all, if you haven’t touched Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess since you impaled Ganondorf with the Master Sword back in 2006, you owe it to yourself to play through the GameCube’s crown jewel one more time. It’s a classic that doesn’t get the respect it deserves simply because it didn’t come first.

Virtual Sports Illustrated News Update, Vol. 1

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world of virtual sports this week:

TORONTO COACH FINED FOR OFFICIATING REMARKS

Toronto Head Coach Pat Schwinn has been fined $5,000 for comments made following last night’s 4-2 loss to Chicago. During the post-game media scrum, Schwinn ripped into the referees as he lamented the numerous “blown calls” he witnessed throughout the game.

“I don’t know if they’re blind as bats or what, but when our guy is coming out of the zone and gets punched in the face by the Chicago player, who then goes and takes the puck up for a breakaway, that’s gotta be called, no questions asked,” Schwinn said. “I understand these are rookie referees, but these sort of non-calls have been happening far too frequently against us. Like that time the other team instigated a fight, but our guy was the only one sent to the box. It’s a joke, I tell ya. A big, fat joke.”

When asked about the fine during this morning’s practice, Schwinn had no comment.

Is it time to crackdown on fighting and roughing?

Is it time to crackdown on fighting and roughing?

HOCKEY CANADA, IIHF REACH AGREEMENT ON UNIFORMS

For months, Hockey Canada and the IIHF have been trying to find a compromise to “Jerseygate” and the use of Hockey Canada logos on team equipment, including the sweater itself. At a joint press conference today, the two sides announced that a compromise had been reached and Team Canada will take to the ice for the upcoming World Championships in a brand new uniform — in a colour that might take some Canadian hockey fans by surprise.

Team Canada's shocking new colours.

Team Canada's shocking new colours.

Gone are the days of the red, white, and black. Instead, the new sweaters will be predominantly green with slight black trim, and in a shocking twist, completely void of any Hockey Canada logos. When asked about the bold new colours, Hockey Canada issued the following statement:

“The Russians had dibs on red for whatever reason, and white would have blended in with the ice. So, we put a bunch of colours into a hat and pulled out green. Could have been worse, though. Fuchsia was one of the options.”

TEAM CANADA SELECTS ROSTER FOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Team Canada is an early favourite.

Stacked with Fat Guys, Team Canada is considered an early favourite.

After weeks of speculation, Team Canada management has announced its final roster for the upcoming World Championships. Featuring three Fat Guys and one Skinny Guy, this year’s edition of Team Canada will be strong up front, not afraid to take the body, and boasts a bevy of blistering shots from the blue line.

“We feel we have a real strong team this year,” says General Manager Jacques Poutine. “With the players we selected, we’re confident that we match up extremely well against the likes of URS and TCH.”

One puzzling omission from this year’s squad is Medium Guy, who has enjoyed a breakout season.

“Although Medium Guy had a solid year, he just hasn’t shown the skating or face-off skills that Skinny Guy can bring to the table,” Poutine said. “In a tournament this short you need specialists, not generalists, and we believe we have that in spades.”

With such a high level of talent, many are considering this year’s edition Team Canada to be the early favourites to bring home the gold.

SURVEY: UTAH JAZZ DECLARED “UNSTOPPABLE”

They're heating up!

They're heating up!

A recent poll of NBA coaches and general managers has come to one conclusion: the combination of Karl Malone and John Stockton is practically unstoppable.

With Malone’s “monster jams” and Stockton’s uncanny ability to nail three-pointers “from downtown”, the Utah Jazz are a force to be reckoned with and have definitely raised eyebrows around the league.

“Those two guys work so well together,” said one GM. “When they really get clicking and using their strengths to their advantage, they’re unstoppable. They’re on fire.”

The poll, which asked coaches and GMs to name the most-feared one-two punch in the league, saw Malone and Stockton take top honours, followed by Olajuwon and Horry of the Houston Rockets.

BLUE JAYS SLUGGER PLACED ON 15-DAY DL

The Toronto Blue Jays will have to find a way to win without the big bat of W. Jack, who has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with contusions to the knee and thigh. The incident, which occurred during the second inning of yesterday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, saw Jack violently shatter his bat over his knee after being struck out on three consecutive pitches by Boston ace S. Heat. Jack limped back to the dugout and proceeded directly to the dressing room, where he was evaluated by team medical staff.

This has been a troubling season for Jack. In addition to slumping in the batter box, he continues to fight allegations that his name is actually a pseudonym and that his true identity is “Joe Carter”.

Team doctors are still removing the splinters.

Team doctors are still removing the splinters.