Friday, May 28, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 and ModNation Racers arrive fashionably late

While I'll be too busy this Memorial Day weekend to enjoy Super Mario Galaxy 2 and ModNation Racers, they've still managed to reach me right before the weekend began to rub their noses in my face. At least they'll be waiting for me when I return.

3D Dot Game Heroes editor easy to grasp, pleasant on the ears

There was no choice more obvious than Link to base my first custom pixel character on in 3D Dot Game Heroes. While the game was very enjoyable with its default blue-armor-clad character, it was still missing that je ne sais quoi.

But using any editor without the comfort of a mouse and keyboard made me a little hesitant at first. Sure, it's still pixel placement when you come right down to it, but there are so many things that could go wrong when implementing tools to operate in three dimensions. Fortunately, the tool set that was given was very simple to grasp. And the background music while you create is so upbeat and catchy, making time melt away - I could listen to that all day!

The cursor you work with is always relative to you and not on the camera angle. So, if you rotated your creation to the left and hit left, the cursor will go left relative to you. This makes navigating around a real breeze, making all the hard-to-reach areas much more manageable. Also with the left and right analog sticks acting as the zoom and rotate, respectively, observing your work at all angles is very smooth.

Their color palette is quite diverse, despite the lack of a real color wheel (like what ModNation Racers has). I really only had to change one color from the default palette they started me on to get all the colors I would need for Link. And you have all your typical "undo," "redo," and "erase all" commands at your disposal. But what I really enjoyed the most were the "resize" and "move" tools.

To resize, you just need to hold the X button and create how big you want your cursor to encapsulate, from all 3 dimensions. And, with their simple no-fuss navigation system, it's very easy to set up a huge block cursor with a change in camera angle. With a variable size, the now can be used to place larger areas of pixels, delete larger areas of pixels, and, most importantly, MOVE a large area of pixels. A lot of games can use a lot of the rules set that make this editor so hard to put down.

The approach I went to create Link was to first re-create the 2D sprite on the closest layer, and re-create the side angle sprite to one side of the area. From here, I eyeballed where all the pixels would meet up in the middle, and then worked my way out. After probably a good hour, I had the initial stand pose up and ready. Considering that artists never intended the pixels to coordinate and match from the front and side, there were a lot of liberties taken to make it all work.

From there, a simple command allowed me to copy over that same pose to other poses, and then I just chiseled Link to match his walking technique for one walk pose. Thanks to their "flip" command, I took the same walk pose and just flipped it for the second walk pose. Walking done!

Next up was the Hurray pose, which appeared when you grab an item, or just fall from a certain height. This probably took the longest time since I had to work on both arms at once. After this was done, the attack poses were a quick edit away before I was able to preview my creation in their test arena.

Overall, I think the final result is quite impressive for a first try.

Needless to say, this has now become my character of choice when playing the game.

And yes, I figured that some people have already tried their hand at making Link. Heck, From Software even gave promo disks with Link as a bonus additional character to use, made by those folks. But it feels good to make a character from the ground up, and it's something I'll likely try again in the near future. Something tells me, though, that it probably won't get posted up on their Hall of Heroes upload page.

I'll try to see if I can upload the character on this blog, but if you want a copy, feel free to email me.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bit Trip Runner downloaded, reminds me of Master Higgens

The very first thing I thought when I started playing Bit Trip Runner (800 Wii points) was my speed run memories of Adventure Island. I don't think many people realized how well designed the levels were to a point where players can just run through the level non-stop and cleverly jump, dodge, and attack enemies in a precise and consistent pace.

Bit Trip Runner, on the other hand, has your character already constantly running, so all you have to do on your end is jump, duck, and kick your way through their very-addicting levels.

I've only played through the first world and boss, and halfway through the second world, and I'm quite addicted. However, I must the game credit for that addiction, seeing that they'll automatically start the next level after every level completion. In addition to the constant level barrage, your character gets reset back to the beginning of the level if you screw up, without missing a beat. There is no extra lives to hoard, no powerups to obtain - you either pass the level, or you don't. There's not even any real interface or tutorial in the game; you just simply play.

The only items you pick up are either gold or these plus-shaped icons that not only improve your score but give you a rainbow streak when you collect all 4. And when you collect all the gold in a level, you're treated to a bonus level done in the familiar style of Pitfall, from which they drew a lot of inspiration. The bonus game even had a grainy filter and familiar static hiss that's reminiscent of all classic Atari 2600 games.

Sound is a strong presence in the game, performing on cue with all your gameplay actions. I found myself almost immediately bobbing my head to the beat, making the already-challenging game that much harder to enjoy and rock out to at the same time. The rhythmic beats also serve as audio cues that accompany the gameplay very smoothly. I was slowly becoming more concerned about not disrupting the beat rather than trying to finish the level, as ironic as it sounds. There were a couple of moments when I considered not picking up all the gold, to just complete the level without getting scathed. But doing just that would defeat the game's audio purpose, and would just give me bland beats.

Finally, the inclusion of ANAMANAgUCHI to Bit Trip Runner is simply awesome (If you ever get a chance to check them out in concert, please do so!). My only disappointment was that it's only used in the intro and end credits and nowhere in the game itself. At least the songs they used (Blackout City as the intro, Mermaid in the credits) were appropriate choices.

Probably the only gripe I've had with this game so far is that on some levels the colors are so vibrant that it's sometimes hard to distinguish the objects you need to dodge. Other than that, Bit Trip Runner is a glorious time-sink that is worth your time and Wii points...I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

3D Dot Game Heroes arrives with pixel goodness

In a time when games get more and more realistic, it's a nice departure to return to a retro, 8-bit world. Well, a 3D 8-bit world, at least. Thanks to 3D Dot Game Heroes, this dream is a weird reality.

And yeah, sure, this game is EXTREMELY similar to another game that rhymes with the Megend of Relda, but I personally think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think without people who are fans of the classic game this is based on, this game would fall flat among the masses.

There's still yet the editor for me to play around with and create my own pixelated heroes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Super Street Fighter IV...finished!

What did you expect? It's not like Super Street Fighter IV is anything new, and I've technically beaten it before. I just had to go through a once-over to sample the new mechanics, characters, and bonus stages for myself.

But this time I've exposed my (terrible) skill to the online community and secured my first win...after several losses.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Super Street Fighter IV is a week late...

...getting to my house. While everyone is enjoying playing online battles and tinkering with the new characters, I'm left in the dust, a week behind everyone else. Heck, a day earlier than when I get my hands on it will set the spread already.

No matter...Super Street Fighter IV is in my possession now, so it's time to dust off that joystick and get to practicing!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

New Super Mario Bros. Wii...finished!

I actually feel a little shameful that I didn't complete the New Super Mario Bros. Wii game sooner, being quite the Nintendo fanatic. But I guess the rounds of multiplayer-madness I had with this game detracted me from finishing the main game too many times.

But there's still more time I can sink into this game, what with acquiring the 3 big coins in each level to unlock the levels located in World 9 to conquer. But that will have to wait for another day.