Throwback Thursday – Game Mechanics: Unnecessary Checkpoints

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Growing up, I lived in a valley that was hedged in by foothills and mountains. The south end of the valley featured a Border Patrol Checkpoint. Set up to combat illegal aliens and drug smuggling, the checkpoint was situated roughly 70 miles north of the Mexican border. Unnecessary? Politics aside, I think so.

Recently, I have been playing through Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen on the Nintendo DS. As the games title insinuates, DQIV is broken into chapters or side stories. The first 5 chapters focus on what turns out to be the support characters. Chapter 6 unites the support characters with the hero of the game, you.

Dragon Quest IV marks my first entry into the Dragon Quest series. While I have enjoyed the 20+ hours I have spent in the game so far, I do have a minor gripe, the unnecessary leveling checkpoints.

20 year old gameplay mechanics aside, Dragon Quest IV commits the sin of the invisible wall. Every few levels, these invisible checkpoints force players to stop and grind (level up) until they are at a sufficient level to proceed in the game. Dungeons, monsters, and bosses are some of the most common level checkpoints found in the game. While I know that this is a common RPG mechanic, I have never been so aware of it. Perhaps this is due to the age of the game? I’m not sure.

Grinding is one of those bite-the-bullet game mechanics. Properly instituted within a game’s design it can be a mechanic that one barely notices. While I am enjoying the time spent with Dragon Quest IV, I can’t help but wish that a more organic type of leveling system be created. However, I do find some sort of twisted comfort in level grinding. The old and the familiar, right? Until next time.

Rewind Wednesday: For the Love of Nook

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Reviled by many gamers due to his slumlord-ish ways, Animal Crossing’s Tom Nook is a character I will forever be thankful for. Tom Nook, you see, is single-handedly responsible for easing my wife into the world of video games.

Back in 2004, I met my now wife at a Halloween event hosted at the college we both attended. We literally bumped into each other in the darkness of night. From that moment on, we dated and got to know one another as all couples do. As things began to grow more serious, I knew that I needed to share my love of video games with her. So, I went out and bought her a Nintendo DS and two copies of Animal Crossing. Two copies? One copy for her; one copy for me.

Soon we were enveloped in the chatty world of talking animals and weed pulling. Random bouts of letter writing, fishing, and strange conversations consumed our gaming time. Every once in awhile, we would visit the other’s town and exchange items—it is because of these visits that I was able to obtain a wide variety of fruit trees—. We were both enjoying the time spent playing the game and hanging out with each other.

Our love of Animal Crossing lasted almost a year. I don’t think that I have ever played a game for such a duration of time. One of our final gaming sessions in the game revolved around checking out the New Years celebration. Fireworks exploded in the sky with great bursts of volume and intensity. A sign, situated in the town square, proudly proclaimed, “Happy New Year”. We were surrounded by virtual buddies we had spent countless hours with. It was a happy new year indeed.

Looking back, we both fondly talk about our New Year’s Eve spent in Animal Crossing. If it wasn’t for Tom Nook and his gateway drug game, I’m not sure that my wife would still be playing games like she does today. A big thank you Tom. Your evil squirrel ways will not be forgotten.

Seasons of Zelda

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The next door neighbor boys growing up, Jeff and Joe, first introduced me to The Legend of Zelda when I was six years old. I remember their shiny golden NES cartridge; I also remember my Mom not letting me play the game due to its villain being referred to as the “Prince of Darkness”. Little did I know that seventeen years would go by before I’d ever touch another game in the series again.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was really my first Zelda game. I was terrible at it. Eventually I’d have a friend come over and help me beat it. In fact, I told him to get to the last boss and then just let me play. Tom Sawyer would have been proud. My friend ended up playing through the entire game and did come and get me to play the end…after he had played it through. I remember the final boss battles being spectacular. Especially the one that took place on the floor that you could fall through. Using the hook-shot to climb back up to where Ganon was standing was very Batman-like. The scope and size of the Nintendo 64 entry to the series was simply awesome at the time. The music is beyond memorable.

In college, I met the woman who is now my wife. One of my evil ploys was to get her into playing video games. So, in addition to buying her a Nintendo DS, I also left my GameCube at her house for awhile. Turns out, she really liked The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I have fond memories of playing through Niko’s Pirate Challenge with her. Nothing like swinging on lanterns to prove your pirate mettle.

My wife and I have played The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass since those days in college. Both of us found the game to be hard with it’s repeating Temple of the Ocean King segments. I have also personally played a chunk of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The game was slow but pretty looking. I also disliked the “wolf” portions of the game. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, is a game I have logged a bunch of hours into but never finished…

All of the above makes me realize that I have never truly beaten a Zelda game. Sure, I have played a good portion of them but never have technically beaten one. Odd.

Found a marketing video from Nintendo this morning that shows a guy playing Zelda games throughout the various stages of his life. Reminded me of how the Zelda series has always been a part of my life. With The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword coming out soon, I have no doubt that it will continue to follow me through my adult years.

The Checkpoint – 2/16

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A good Wednesday morning to everyone out there. All two of you. Yeah, I see you in the back sir, thanks for stopping by once more.

As I’m cruising around the web this morning, I thought I’d share a few links worthy of your time. Enjoy!

Sometimes video game designers smoke crack...

Over on 1up.com, Jeremy Parish has been running a series entitled Departing Salute, The Best of the DS. Feel the Magic: XY/XX not withstanding, Parish’s farewell game list for the DS highlights some of the best games on the system.  I highly recommend this informative read, especially if you have somehow managed to miss the gaming goodness of the Nintendo DS.

Steam has been having a random sale this week. Every day a new game is offered (Monday – Batman: Arkham Asylum; Tuesday – Just Cause 2). Both games featured so far have only cost $7.50. Makes me wish I had saved my allowance money!

In a news piece that didn’t surprise me at all, Gamespot reports that the movie based on the game BioShock was unable to find funding. That was one trip I wouldn’t have taken anyways.

Is anyone out there still playing Final Fantasy 11? I’ve been thinking about checking this game out again and was wondering if it was worth it.

Nice Guy Gamer has a great post on video games and battling anxiety. Check it out!

I think that’s about it for today. Thanks for stopping by! Make sure to leave a comment if you do as it keeps me writing.

 

The Cold War is Over: Part 2

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Despite the Cold War ending in 2009, I still use my iPod Touch on a daily basis. I have also learned that Bluetooth for gaming wasn’t that big of a deal. However, I am still leery of Apple and its hardware upgrades. Primarily a console gamer, I am used to the 5-8 year life cycles the consoles go through. With the exception of the PSP, every major video game console has stayed relatively the same (minus a few minor hardware upgrades that do not alienate the user base). $250-$300, a one-time purchase, buys the user 5-8 years of gaming. Comparing that to Apple and their hardware upgrades every few years, I’m not sure those that have adopted the iPhone/ iTouch hardware are getting the biggest bang for their buck.

I have read that iDevice gaming is the wave of the future. In this wave, the likes of the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP are washed to the side as cheap gaming reigns supreme on the iDevice. As much as I love my iTouch, I cannot imagine a world without Nintendo and Sony handhelds. I believe that each has its place in the vast expanse of gaming; each has its own strengths and weaknesses. While gaming on the iDevice may be the in thing at the moment, I can assure you that this will not always be. How do I know this? Alienation by hardware upgrade is not how Nintendo has become the dominate competitor in handheld gaming. No parent, and certainly no gamer, is willing to pay for upgrades in hardware every few years. At least I hope not. My pockets aren’t deep enough.

This is my second in a series of thoughts on iPhone/ iPod Touch gaming. For Part 1, click here.

Unnecessary Checkpoints

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Growing up, I lived in a valley that was hedged in by foothills and mountains. The south end of the valley featured a Border Patrol Checkpoint. Set up to combat illegal aliens and drug smuggling, the checkpoint was situated roughly 70 miles north of the Mexican border. Unnecessary? Politics aside, I think so.

Recently, I have been playing through Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen on the Nintendo DS. As the games title insinuates, DQIV is broken into chapters or side stories. The first 5 chapters focus on what turns out to be the support characters. Chapter 6 unites the support characters with the hero of the game, you.

Dragon Quest IV marks my first entry into the Dragon Quest series. While I have enjoyed the 20+ hours I have spent in the game so far, I do have a minor gripe, the unnecessary leveling checkpoints.

20 year old gameplay mechanics aside, Dragon Quest IV commits the sin of the invisible wall. Every few levels, these invisible checkpoints force players to stop and grind (level up) until they are at a sufficient level to proceed in the game. Dungeons, monsters, and bosses are some of the most common level checkpoints found in the game. While I know that this is a common RPG mechanic, I have never been so aware of it. Perhaps this is due to the age of the game? I’m not sure.

Grinding is one of those bite-the-bullet game mechanics. Properly instituted within a game’s design it can be a mechanic that one barely notices. While I am enjoying the time spent with Dragon Quest IV, I can’t help but wish that a more organic type of leveling system be created. However, I do find some sort of twisted comfort in level grinding. The old and the familiar, right? Until next time.

Surf Report – 8/31/09

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Surf ReportWelcome to a Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :


.: Life :

Too busy. You?

.: Gaming :

Dragon Quest IVThis week I thought I would take a break from the great Pokémon experiment to instead talk about my recent adventures with Dragon Quest IV (DS).

As a gamer, I have had limited exposure to the world of Dragon Quest. My Japanese RPG experiences  to date have mostly consisted of the Final Fantasy series. Granted, I have deviated away from the Final Fantasy series occasionally and explored the worlds of Skies of Arcadia (DC), Golden Sun (GBA), and Chrono Trigger (DS). However, the Dragon Quest series is one that I have read much about but never played until now.

Dragon Quest IV marks my first experience in the world of Dragon Quest. The game is divided up into five chapters, with each chapter introducing a different character/ perspective that will eventually build into the final chapter that features the games main hero. Ten hours into the game, I have reached chapter 4. A tale of revenge, chapter 4 follows Maya and Meena on their quest to avenge their fathers death. Difficulty wise, chapter 4 seems too short on money drops and thus upgrading weapons/ armor has been a pain. Overall, I am enjoying the games simplistic gameplay and engaging storyline. If you haven’t jumped into the world of Dragon Quest, now is the time to do so.

Wave SplinterThat is it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!