Friday, February 01, 2008


This is a Christmas-related post, so it’s been a long time in coming. By far the best gift I received was a Nintendo Wii from Kindra’s family. It’s been six or seven years since I last picked up a video game controller (from a Sega Dreamcast, natch), so it was a little weird. Especially weird since I’d gone through the Playstation, XBox, GameCube, PS2, XBox 360, and PS3 launches without much interest.

Don’t mistake my lack of interest for a dislike of video games. It’s just that they come with increasing costs – each game these days run $45-60. Not to mention they suck up time. (Wow… how old am I?). Of course, the darn thing’s already cost me time and money, so...

Anyway, I’ve got just four games, but I’m also the kind of guy who likes games that are replayable, so it works out okay:

Wii Sports

This is a cool set of games that came with the Wii. There’s boxing, golf, baseball, tennis, and bowling along with a bunch of mini-games designed to help you practice the skills necessary for playing the games. It’s the ultimate party game and time-waster, since it’s pretty replayable.

I’m partial to tennis, bowling, and golf. I rarely play baseball and boxing is a bit chaotic for me. It’s kind of funny, since I didn’t like playing tennis when I was a kid, I rarely bowl because even when I was at my best, I averaged about 135 (125?), and I’ve only ever swung a golf club something like five times in my life. On the other hand, my cousins and I used to play baseball pretty regularly when we were kids, and I’m a guy, so why wouldn’t I want to beat the crap out of a computer-generated boxer?

I’m still trying to figure out all the ways to hit the ball in tennis, since I can’t seem to do an overhead smash or direct my volleys the way that I want to (maybe I should read the instructions). My high in bowling is 264, I just wish the physics could be set to be more “real” so that it’s more difficult to bowl well. It’s kinda cool how easily you can generate different types of bowling spins. Golfing-wise, I’m okay, and I just realized that the golf courses are based on the old “Golf” game for the original Nintendo that I used to play. There’s only 9 different holes, so it does get a little repetitive, but it’s good enough for quick plays (which, really, are the only things I should have time for).

I’ll also mention that Kindra’s dad could beat the crap out of anybody in the boxing game, so stay on his good side.

Madden 08

I’ll say this first: I love Madden and sports games in general. There’s a lot of fun in pretending to be that athlete you dream about performing like and admire on TV. I’ve also played Madden since it was first created, way back in the day, and love all the EA Sports games – Tiger Woods, NBA Live, NHL Live, etc. I like this game and the intricacies that are built into it, and it’s definitely cool that I have a sports game to play other than Wii Sports.

That being said, this is an example of why not every game for the Wii should have its control schemes redesigned for the motion-senstive Wii-mote. I understand that the appeal of the Wii is partially the fun of jiggling the controller around to make things happen on the screen. However, mapping controls for Madden to the Wii-mote just plain annoys me. There are times that I want to sit and play a game and not have to flail about to make a tackle.

There are two control schemes on the Wii: “Family Play,” where you just use the Wii-mote and the computer does the rest, and “advanced,” which uses the nunchuk attachment with a joystick and two extra buttons. It’s not that it’s not fun sometimes, but I wish there was a way to simply plug in a regular controller and just play the game like you would on any other system. Flicking my wrist back to hike the ball and then flinging it forward to make a pass can be kind of interesting, and thrusting the controller forward to make a hard tackle is cool in the practice mode, but when it’s 11:00 p.m. and I want to play a quick game before heading to bed, it can be bothersome.

Super Mario Galaxy

How do you own a Nintendo product and not have a Mario Bros. game for it? It’s a fun game with controls that map well to the Wii-mote and the nunchuk. It’s pretty, too. =) I haven’t played it a ton, since it’s so level-based and requires some dedicated play, but I’m going to have to play it more, or else I’ll never have time to play it when the new baby arrives.

Guitar Hero III

Currently the biggest vice in my life. I had it for two days before Kindra first mentioned that she hated the game because 1) I play it a ton and 2) I like playing the same six or seven songs over and over and over again (hey, you gotta practice). Whoever created this game is a genius. I want to practice, which I never did when I was taking music lessons (of course, it’s a bit easier to play the Guitar Hero guitar than an actual guitar). I just wish there was a way to get downloadable content on the Wii like you can on the XBOX 360 and PS3.

Still, the game rocks (no pun intended), and I like it because 1) it reminds you of all the cool songs out there that you don’t normally listen to and 2) it makes songs that you do listen to that much more interesting. My sister Steph was right – if you hear a song you play on Guitar Hero, all you want to do is figure out how you strum and key the song. Of course, being the dork that I am, I made a CD of a bunch of the songs before I left for a recent road trip to the Bay Area. My current favorite is “Cliffs of Dover” by Eric Johnson, which I first heard fifteen years ago because a buddy of mine in high school was a pretty good guitarist and of course, listened to all the really great guitarists. If it wasn’t for Guitar Hero III, I wouldn’t have been able to even name it. I’m also partial to “My Name is Jonas” by Weezer because it’s fun to play. And just so you know, Metallica’s “One” is ridiculously complex.

FYI, I can only play songs on the “medium” setting, since the “difficult” setting is pretty crazy and “expert” is something that I can only dream of. Besides, I’m pretty sure that Kindra will break the guitar and the Wii before I can practice enough to get to that level.

Later... Gotta go kick some butt at tennis.


a mindless zombie said...

you'll need to ebay your console and games before the baby comes.

Steve said...

Uh... No. But I don't know what I'll do when the baby comes. Probably not play at all. You know, I really wanted to setup a little gaming station with my Dreamcast and Atari 2600 a long time ago... But they're all sitting in Danica's room (in the closet).

a mindless zombie said...

You can show danica the evolution of gaming!