Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wing Commander - Finished First Mission in Dakota

Wing Commander holds many fond memories for. It takes me back to 8th grade and my friend Max. He had a high end 386 at his house and he introduced me to Wing Commander.

I was never much into flight simulators before then, and I'm still not, but there is something about Wing Commander that pulled me in. Wing Commander obviously took inspiration from Star Wars - specifically the idea of world war II in space. It presents an epic story of a conflict between humans and an alien race, taking place on the equivalent of an aircraft carrier. Wing Commander was crafted like a movie. Before each mission you can shoot the breeze with your fellow pilots, then the colonel gives a briefing and you are off flying in space. After the mission, you are debriefed, possibly given a medal or promotion or reassigned to another squadron on the ship. But what was really neat about the story is that your actions directly affected it. Successfully defeat a wing of fighters or defend the transport ship and your carrier would move into one system. Fail to destroy the enemy capital ship or have your escort get blown up and your carrier would move into another. This branching storyline even led to affecting the results of the war in the rest of the sector, and every so often you would see scenes of marines successfully (or unsuccessfully) storming an enemy base or a group of brave scientists thwarting (or being killed by) an enemy sneak attack.

The flying in Wing Commander appealed to me because it was fast, intense, and boiled down to the basics of what was needed to fly an attack craft. Basically, it took a very arcade approach to the flying. Still, the communication with your wingman, ordering him to break and attack, retreat, attack your target or whatever worked well to enhance a "you are there" feel of putting you in a war story. The fact that you could taunt and be taunted by enemy ships was a nice touch as well. The physics were always a little off. It was much more like you were flying in a gravity-less atmosphere than in space, but it worked fine and when you were dogfighting an enemy ship, maneuvering to get a good shot on him while avoiding his shots, you didn't notice it.

When I visited Max's house, I would only occasionally get a chance to fly. Most of the time was spent watching him fly and giving suggestions. The game was pretty difficult and I remember seeing him in the less successful systems, often flying desperate attempts to defend the carrier.

Having a Mac, I was disappointed that I could not get the game for my computer since it was so enthralling for me. Fortunately, an enhanced version of the game was released for the 3DO system and for whatever reason that version also got aport to the Mac. Super Wing Commander came on a CD, giving it better graphics and sound than the original, voices for all the characters, and included the first expansion Secret Missions and a new set of missions exclusive to it. It also ran at a speed approximating molasses on my LC III. But I didn't care because it was still the Wing Commander I loved. Despite the stuttering sound, the characters whose voice acting made them sound like they were on morphine, and game that played like, as my friend Max said when he saw, "a chess match" as you had plenty of time to plan your next move in between frames of animation, I loved it. I played through it again when I got a PowerPC that could actually run the game at an acceptable rate. I went on to play Wing Commander 3 and Wing Commander IV since they were released for the Mac and loved them.

A few days ago, I was reading about the new Wing Commander game set to be released for Xbox Live Arcade in a week or so and that gave me the itch. I had never played Wing Commander II before or its expansions. And, while Super Wing Commander had the same plot of the first game and its expansion, the second set of missions was different from the PC expansion. Not to mention that it was much easier - your ships had more missiles and the wingman AI was better. Thus, I decided that I had to play Wing Commander I and II and their associated Secret Missions and Special Operations.

I'm enjoying it just as I used to. For a PC game released in 1990, it is quite impressive. Sure the standard VGA graphics, especially the ship bitmaps don't look great now, but it is still a ton of fun. It is also a lot harder than Super Wing Commander, which makes it interesting. While I have made it further on the positive mission path (haven't failed any missions yet) than I remember my friend Max making it, some of the missions took a few tries. In Super Wing Commander I rarely had to redo a mission unless my wingman died.

And that brings me to the last mission I played. Knight and I were tasked with protecting two Drayman class transports. It was a brutally hard mission. A wing of Salthis and then a wing of Krants came after the first transport. Knight and I fought valiantly and I took a ton of damage, but we managed to see the Drayman off safely to its jump point. Then came the rendezvous with the next Drayman, this one carrying precious vaccines to help with the outbreak of a disease on a nearby human colony. Three Jalthi, the Kilrathi's heaviest fighters, came after it. I managed to lure one off and was dogfighting with it. Just as I finish it off, Knight radio's in that he's in trouble. I spin my ship around and fire on the afterburners to get back to him, but I'm too late. One of the Jalthi's finishes him off and he doesn't eject in time. Filled with rage, I pump the last of my missiles into one Jalthi and tear into the other from the rear with my guns. When I get back to the carrier, during the debriefing the Colonel laments Knight's passing and comments that it seems he just couldn't handle it out there. Bullshit! I retort that Knight gave all he could, including his life, to ensure that the transport made it in safely. But in the back of my head, I can't help but blame myself for his death. I had my Jalthi damaged. It was still a threat but not a great one and I knew Knight was tackling with two of them. I should have turned around quicker to help him, but instead I went for the kill. The extra 30 seconds it took to finish off the Jalthi are the time the other two needed to lay into Knight. A good man died, and I feel responsible.

That's why I love this game. No way am I reloading. I'm going to have to go through the game with that on my hands.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mario Kart DS - Gold Trophy in all 50cc Races

Man, you sure couldn't tell that my advisor being back in town has decreased the frequency of my game playing, could you?

Mario Kart is a game that I've had for nearly a year now, but haven't really played yet. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that I am not overly fond of racing games. I appreciate a well done one, but the ones that go for all the realism and car customization just aren't for me. I prefer my racers to be arcadey and fortunately Mario Kart fits that bill. The second is that, to me, Mario Kart is a multiplayer game. I have fond memories of summers and playing Super Mario Kart and later rousing games of Mario Kart 64 with friends (mostly battle on the latter). Several nights at college were spent schooling people and getting schooled in Mario Kart 64. But playing it by myself? It just seems wrong.

Still, that shouldn't be a problem. Mario Kart DS was the first DS game to feature online Wi-Fi play so I should always have an opponent. But I had heard of rampant abuse of "snaking" (whatever that was) and other things making the game less enjoyable so I had stayed away. My play time in Mario Kart DS, thus consisted of maybe a half hour of single cartridge wireless play against friends one night. But I was determined to fix this last Wednesday when some people on a board I frequent were going to play some online Mario Kart. I figured that playing with people I had some familiarity with would be okay and it would be a good learning experience. Sadly, a mostly dead DS battery and Comcast were against me that night and I never got an online game.

I was, however, inspired to practice single player. I had heard that Mario Kart DS was one of the best Mario Kart incarnations and I can believe it. The game plays very smooth, the controls are responsive, the AI opponent's seem realistic and fair, and you can see yourself learning the strategies as you play. The courses are also very well built. The original ones are very innovative and have plenty of interesting features in them and the classic courses taken from previous Mario Kart games are awesome.

In playing, I got a chance to practice my power slide and speed boost and thus learned what snaking was. I honestly can't understand getting too pissed off by it, but then maybe that's just because I can't really do it. Oh sure, getting the speed boosts on turns isn't a problem, but on straightaways it seems much more difficult to pull off and get a boost in the right direction. I'm sure people who have practiced the game and know the courses inside and out can probably pull it off without a problem, but I don't know that I really have an issue with people that put that much time into the game doing better. It certainly doesn't seem as complaint-worthy as what I've seen.

Once you complete a set of courses (A cup, like the Mushroom Cup), you are given a ranking beyond just what place you came in. The ranking definitely seems to make the game more hard core since it isn't that hard to place first in a cup, but the ranking depends not just on place, but also time to complete the tracks and mistakes made. The ranking go from E at the lowest to A, and then to star, double star, and triple star. The best I have done is a one star ranking and that's at 50cc, the easiest difficulty.

I still want to finish up Pokemon Diamond so I don't think this game will replace it in my DS, but it is definitely a game I will keep with me on a trip to play when I want something different.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pokemon Diamond - Obtained the Icicle Gym Badge

I have continued to play this game, on and off, for the past couple weeks. I'm really starting to have bouts of loving and hating the game now. Going through areas often feels like a grind - the cave on Iron island definitely felt that way. The game can move very slowly, especially with battle animations and switching Pokemon and everything like that. This can make the game a drudgery. And yet, the exploration of new areas and encountering new Pokemons seems great. So... I don't know. It held my attention long enough to spend an entire night going through the snowy area to reach the town at the end, which was good.

I still feel that my Pokemon are a bit underleveled. The Canalave gym didn't cause me much trouble, and the Snowpoint City one was only a little difficult (and had one of the coolest puzzles in it). I guess as long as I'm winning, it doesn't really matter.

I also guess I'm near the end of the game's story, since there aren't any many places on the map that I haven't visited. This is good, as I'm actually kind of looking forward to all the stuff that opens up when you beat the elite four at the end. People on forums I visit have been talking about raising different pokemon teams for different battle types and I think that sounds like a hoot. I also want to try to capture every Pokemon in the Sinnoh Pokedex, so this game definitely still has pull for me.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Excite Truck - S Rank in all Bronze courses in Excite Mode

Wow, I'm not sure if I've ever gone so quickly from not getting a game to being totally addicted to it. I started playing this game when I got home from work today and didn't stop until just now, making about four hours of obsessively playing and racing.

I really just didn't get the game before. I had gone through the beginner tutorials, but that really wasn't enough to delve into what makes the game tick. I also sort of got the whole concept of long jumps and tree runs and other things like that giving you stunt points, but now I see where in the levels to look for these things, how to better achieve them, and the desire to push myself to do better stunts. The game also flows very well once you get into it. It totally drags you in.

The normal (Excite) races are lots of fun. Because you are ranked based on more than just where you place, you are encouraged to find all the best areas for jumps and tree runs and crushing others. This makes it so much more than just a racing game.

There are also Challenge races which I have tried in which you need to drive through gates or hit rings in the air. They each emphasize a different aspect of the skill needed to do well in the game. They are also fun and you feel like you could eventually S Rank all of them with enough practice (unlike, say the challeneges in ATV Offroad Fury 2 that just began to seem impossible.)

So yeah, I'm definitely keeping this game.

Excite Truck - Two Player, Nothing Unlocked

This is the third of the multiplayer games I have tried with friends. My initial impression is that the game is okay.

I'm not sure why I feel that way, given that one of my friends thinks the game is the best we have played. It could be my general bias against driving games. I've just never been that enthralled by them. Or it could be the fact that, while the controls are good, they aren't great. Steering is very sensitive and you definitely have to adjust to that. It could also be that there aren't many tracks or vehicles unlocked.

I got three games (this, Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, and Super Paper Mario at a Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale at a GameStop about an hour from where I live (it was right near a friend's wedding). The woman there claimed I could return/exchange the games at any GameStop within seven days so tomorrow is basically my last day to do so. And I am seriously considering swapping this game for something like Rayman Raving Rabbids. But since I have until tomorrow, I'll try to unlock some more stuff and see if I enjoy it more.

Wii Play - Playing Two Player

The reviews were fairly uniform: Wii Play isn't that great. It is more of a tech demo for what the Wii can do with motion sensing. Still, it is $50 for the game plus a remote while a remote by itself is $40. And everyone seemed to agree that paying $10 for the game is worth it. I'd agree with that.

When you first start up Wii Play, you have to start with the first game - the target shooting. Once you play that, you then move on to the rest of the games until you have played all ten. So basically, in a short period you "unlock" all of the games. I had to do this so that when my friends came over we could try any that we wanted.

In the course of doing this, I discovered that about half the games are worth playing: Shooting Range, Laser Hockey, Billiards, Charge!, and Tanks! Shooting Range gives you a crosshair where your remote points at the screen and you must shoot various objects that appear. It is enjoyable, but I am noticing that there doesn't appear to be much randomness to it. It seems to me that the same things appear in the same spots every time so that game may lose its luster after awhile. Billiards is a game of 9-Ball and works very well. It may be the best game on the disc. Charge! is a game of cow racing where you hold the remote horizontally and tilt it to turn and accelerate and can even quickly move it upwards to jump. While not as deep as Excite Truck, it works pretty well and the jumping gives it an added dimension. Tanks! is probably the best game on the disc. With the nunchuk attachment, you move a tank around the screen. A crosshair appear where the remote is pointing toward the screen and you can fire in that direction. Your shells will ricochet off a wall once so there is lots of strategy to planning your shots.

Laser Hockey, while not the best game on the disc, is the most interesting. Mostly because I really enjoyed it, but my friends did not. It took them awhile to figure it out and even then I'm not sure they totally did. The game is air hockey. Moving the remote up, down, left, and right does the same to the paddle. Twisting the remote clockwise or counter-clockwise rotates the (horizontal) paddle. I "got" this game the first time I played it, but others didn't. Regardless, I enjoy this game even if others don't.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wii Sports - Playing two player

So, I finally got my Wii last Sunday. My friends in Salt Lake are awesome and pooled their resources together to get me one for my birthday. Well, they put the money together to get me one. They weren't in stock when they were looking and it took a week before stores got in shipments again. Fortunately, people aren't crazy for them anymore so my friend and I got to Circuit City a few minutes after it opened and they still had about a half dozen left.

Wii Sports was the main game I played on Sunday and then ended up playing Monday and yesterday as well. Previously, I had tried it out at a friend's place and was very impressed by tennis and bowling. In fact, the quality of tennis and bowling is what inspired me to actually be interested in getting a Wii as soon as it had a few more good software titles (including virtual console downloads). So I knew Tennis and Bowling were good. I tried boxing and it was fun to watch and not bad to participate in against another player, but it couldn't say it was actually a good game. I'd heard baseball was pretty good too.

What surprised me was golf. No one I knew had talked positively about golf. There wasn't a ton of negative stuff said about it either, but it was never listed when people talked about the good games in Wii Sports. I can somewhat understand. It isn't very deep and it isn't really an accurate simulation of golf. It doesn't check the position of the remote when you would be hitting the ball and thus doesn't determine hook or slice that way. All it really measures is how quickly you move the remote forward. For all of this inaccuracy to actual golf, it is still a fun game. You still have to take wind, terrain, and slope into account when lining up your shot. Instead of having to press a button twice to determine power and accuracy*, you instead just swing the remote. If you put too much power on it, you will hook or slice. It is a very simple use of the Wii's motion sensing capabilities and yet it still really adds to the game. You can have a fun game of challenging a friend to several holes that requires moving about to determine your shots. It is entertaining to play, even alone, and lots of fun with friends. It certainly has made me consider looking into getting a Tiger Woods or other golf video game for the Wii that uses waggle.

Baseball is pretty nice too. You don't control fielding or base running, but for the most part I think that is fine. At first I thought it was all about batting, but the last game I played, my friend and I got into more of a pitcher's duel. The batting is pretty awesome, though. When I keep trying for home runs, I tend to fly out a lot more, just like in actual baseball.

So that makes four of the five games on Wii Sports being genuinely fun and I'd say that's a great ratio. Heck even boxing is fun when you have two players going at it and a bunch of people over.

*I know the modern golf games now use the analog stick(s) for power and accuracy, but the most recent golf game I've played was Mario Golf: Advance Tour for the Game Boy Advance so no analog stick. Before that, I think the last golf game I played was in 1993 or so.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Ninja Gaiden - Review

The origins of this game are muddled. Most believe it was loosely based on the concept of the arcade game with the same name. The arcade Ninja Gaiden was a Beat 'em up brawler whose only real innovation was a button on the joystick that let you grab onto poles and bars. This game is a platformer, drastically different from the arcade game and seemed destined to be lumped in the category of "console games different from and superior to their arcade versions" like Bionic Commando and Contra. That's all well on good, but it is unclear whether the arcade game actually came out before the NES version. Even if it did, there wasn't much time, so the two games were likely developed concurrently. There are also those who postulate that the NES Ninja Gaiden ripped-off Castlevania. While it certainly borrowed the player/enemy life and power-ups in candles, those people are otherwise crazy.

Regardless of its origins, Ninja Gaiden stands as a classic NES game. People remember it to this day and have very fond memories of it. Generally, people remember four things about it: The story, the tight play control, the difficulty, and the music.

While there were certainly previous NES games that had a story and told you what was going on, Ninja Gaiden was one of the first to do it in movie style. Indeed, the game's main stages were labeled "Acts". Ninja Gaiden was a pioneer of the cut scene, or as it dubbed them, "cinema scenes". At the beginning, you are treated to a beautiful prologue, featuring two characters dueling in a field. One falls and you learn that this was the father of Ryu Hayabusa, a ninja of the Shinobi clan. Ryu finds his father dead and finds a letter left by his father saying that if he dies, Ryu should take the family's dragon sword and go to America seeking his father's archaeologist friend. All of this is told in beautfiul graphics accompanied by text and stirring music. As the story progresses, Ryu discovers his father's link to an ancient Amazonian temple, a madman intent on awakening a demon that has slept for 700 years, and the involvement of the CIA. While the story won't be winning any awards, it is written well, clever enough, and appropriate for an action game (as it would be in an action movie). Moreover, it is of appropriate length, whetting the player's appetite just enough between levels and serving as a reward for completing them, not a distraction from the actual game itself.

That is good, because the actual game is a delight to play. During the simple first level, you learn pretty much all of the platforming tricks. Ryu can jump a good height and has limited control of himself while in the air. Using his ninja training, he can grab onto any vertical surface and then jump off it in the opposite direction. This simple change to standard platforming really opens up a lot in terms of level design and is used very well throughout the game. By the end of the game, you will have mastered jumping onto a wall and then off it again to reach the desired platform. There is even one infamous series of jumps in level 5-2 that requires understanding of just how it works.

Beyond the platforming, Ryu generally uses his sword to attack the foes he comes across. His sword slashes out horizontally and he can do it in mid-air, so perhaps the similarities to Castlevania shouldn't be overlooked. Ryu adds to his arsenal by acquiring ninja arts which are located in the candles, birds, hummingbirds, spiders or various other small objects dotted throughout the stages. These ninja arts consist of basic throwing stars that shoot out horizontally, great flames that leap out diagonally, or slashing in 360 degrees in the air making you all but invincible. Each use of a ninja art depletes your ninja spirit level which is filled by finding power ups in the same object that ninja arts are found in.

All of these attacking techniques are used for the game's variety of enemies. Each enemy has a certain behavior it follows that must be taken into account. Basic warriors with swords or bats just move back and forth on one platform. More advanced boxers or crouching men lunge or jump at you when you come near. Other foes shoot or throw projectiles at you, some always facing you. And then there are the birds that home in on you. Those birds still give me nightmares. This variety and intelligence in enemy behaviors make getting through parts of stages almost a puzzle, requiring swift thinking to maneuver yourself into the right position and quick reflexes to slash your sword just when the enemy is in range. At the end of each act, you face a boss. Though big, colorful, and artistically designed, these bosses are generally not very difficult. They don't have interesting patterns that must be discovered and exploited, but rather simple ones that usually just require figuring when the right spot to repeated slash at them is. It isn't until the very end of the game that you face any truly interesting (in terms of challenge) boss fights.

Though the gameplay generally exudes polish, when you look close enough, chinks show in the armor. It is often possible to fall through platforms at the screen's edge. Worse, these platforms are often ones with ladders leading to the next area and so you may have to retry your jump several times before hitting it right (or worse, die in the attempt). The game also gets into trouble with too many sprites on the screen at a time, leading to flicker and difficulty in telling where you or the enemies are. Finally, and most frustratingly, the game sets certain points in a level for where enemies spawn. If you pass this point and then come back to it, the enemy will usually respawn - even if the first incarnation is still on the screen.

This is part of what makes the game so tough. If you are running away from an enemy to regroup and turn around to attack it, you will often now have a second one to deal with. Or if you finally figure out how to defeat an enemy on a precarious platform you need to jump to, you may find you've backed up too far and it will appear there again. The game gives you a health bar with sixteen slots in it, though certain enemies will do more than one unit of damage in a hit. When an enemy hits you, you are invincible for a temporary period, but you also are forced back and can't move for part of that which can lead to being knocked into a group of enemies and taking more hits, or worse being knocked into a pit. The pits are instant death and if you are in the air and are hit by an enemy of projectile, you have no control while you begin plummetting to your doom and have to hope you regain control of your character with enough time to maneuver onto a ledge or wall. But you probably won't.

Despite this challenge, people come back to this game because it feels tough, but fair. Much like the GnG series, when you die, it rarely feels cheap. It doesn't feel like you had no way to avoid the death, but rather if you were a little more careful or had reacted a little more quickly you could have been fine. Yes, the birds torment you with their dive-bombing, but once you learn how they react, you can dodge and attack and get them back. While memorizing levels helps and is probably the only way you will beat the game, unlike difficult games such as Battletoads, it is not required. If you move cautiously enough and react quickly enough, you can get through any situation. It is just very tough to do so.

Fortunately, while you are tearing your hair out over the game's difficulty, you will be listening to one of the best soundtracks on the NES. I'm sure the music is another reason people keep coming back to this game. Mega Man 2 has a great soundtrack too, but its lack of story means that its songs don't carry the same emotional impact. The music that plays during the prologue at the beginning is just what would play during the same sort of prologue in a movie. The music for Act 3, which is all about chasing someone feels fast and frenetic like a chase should. After being captured, mugged for the statue to reawaken the demon, and having your girl dragged off to be sacrificed, the music in level 5-1 carries the sense of desperation that Ryu Hayabusa would feel and in 5-3 the desperation twinged with hope that he might just get there in time.

The rest of the game is merely fine. The graphics for the levels and sprites are good, but not generally amazing. While there is some great background art for the level (which should be expected given the quality of art in the cinema scenes), it sometimes doesn't seem to have been checked with the sprites, so they can not be as visible as they should. The sprites themselves work, but aren't very special. They work, but don't stick out because of their detail or color. The same could be said of the sound effects. They are only used when they have to be - slashing your sword, an enemy dying, picking up and item, etc. The slicing/explosion sound when an enemy dies is the only memorable one, the rest are either beepy and bloopy or worse a bit muffled which is a problem when it is the one used to denote that you've hit a boss.

Whether this game is a great example of a game changing in the move from arcade to home console or a shamless crib of ideas from Castlevania, it stands up today. It is still incredibly fun to play despite the fact that better platformers have been made or other games have done stories better. I personally love this game, but I know that nostalgia clouds some of that. I like this game better than its sequel despite that fact that I think the sequel has more refined gameplay, more appropriate challenge, better music, and a better story. No matter how fun this game is to play, and just about everyone agrees on that, I have to concede that its relentless difficulty probably prevents it from being seen as great. I also have to remind myself that my rating system is supposed be both objective, and on a bell curve, so few games will rate at the extremes. Subjectively, this is one of the my top three favorite games for the NES. Objectively, it is a very good game that some flaws which are thrown more in the spotlight by how the sequel fixed many of them.

Rating: 8 / 10

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Ninja Gaiden - One Life Challenge, beat the game

So the official "One credit challenge" over at the (new, improved!) talking time forums is gone, but one member issued a challenge that I took personally. He managed to beat a game, not just on one credit, but on one life. It wasn't just any game - it was Ninja Gaiden.

This game has such amazing memories for me. I got it for my 10th birthday and loved it almost immediately. It just jumped out at me. This platformer featuring a ninja (during the late 80s/early 90s, ninjas were automatically awesome) totally did it for me. It played wonderfully, despite there being some glitches that showed through at the corners. The sticking to walls gave it its own unique feel. And the scenes in between levels (cinema scenes, the instruction booklet called them), gave the game a story as good as my ten year old mind would have hoped for. They made me identify so much more with the main character, Ryu Hayabusa. I used to play through the game, speaking all the dialogue in the cinema scenes, giving each character a different voice (Ryu's voice was my natural voice, of course).

To sum up, I love this game (and its sequels). I love it so much that used to play through it yearly (lately that has changed to bi- or tri-yearly). I love it so much that I use its seminal cinema scene as my avatar in any video game related forum I post to (see the picture in the upper left corner of the title of this blog).

When I heard someone else had done something that I had never done with this game - with my game! - I knew I could not let that stand. So I girded myself and played the game for the first time since 2004.

And I was rusty - It took me two tries to even beat it on one credit.

Finally having done that again, I knew there was one obstacle I would have to overcome in order to beat it on one life: beating Jacquio with no ninja art. You see, at the end of the game is a boss rush of sorts. After you get through stage 6-3, you face the Masked Devil, the Jacquio, and then the demon Jashin one right after another. Your health is restored after each battle, but after the first one, you lose your ninja art and all ninja magic power. So basically, if you want to beat the game on one life, you need to be able to beat the Jacquio and the demon with just your sword. I had beaten the demon with only a sword before, but never the Jacquio.

I tried several times on my own to come up with a strategy to beat him. I was getting a little further, but the best I was able to do was knock him down to half his health. Feeling slightly defeated, I decided to look up some FAQs to see if they could help. Getting a strategy from one of them, I attempted to put that to use. I failed, but I saw how it could be implemented to win. After two or three more tries, I had finally defeated Jacquio with just the dragon sword.

Now came the hard part of beating it in one life. You see, while I pretty much know the game inside and out, things can change slightly depending on what pixel you are on when you jump. And nobody is perfect. So I made many mistakes, dying in levels before the end. When I finally got to the end bosses, I had trouble with the demon and died there twice. Also, I decided if I were to attempt such a monumental task, I wanted to document it. I had my digital camera out and was snapping photographs to document my progress along the way. The need to do this interrupted my flow every so often and caused some death. Finally, though, I did it.

I beat Ninja Gaiden on one life.

I put together a pictorial essay to document it.

All is right in the world.

Guitar Hero - Completed all songs of medium difficulty at 5 stars

I bought this game at full price - mistakenly since I thought I was getting an amazing deal on the Guitar Hero bundle. I meant to return it, but put it off too long and it was too late so I held onto it, thinking I might sell or trade it once I found a great deal on the original Guitar Hero bundle. I finally ended up getting a good deal on a plain controller so now this game once again had merit.

What prompted me to play it was talk of doing a video game party at some point and Guitar Hero is a great party game. But... at least in Guitar Hero II, you need to unlock some songs before they are available so I figured I should do that for the first game. I have now gotten as far in this game as I have in Guitar Hero II so I have some interested impressions on the differences between the two.

Guitar Hero II is definitely more of a polished game. The biggest issue is the control difference. The first Guitar Hero feels a bit more mushy in the controls. It's hard to explain - maybe just slightly less responsive or not handling the transitions between chords or strums as well? It definitely doesn't handle hammer-ons and pull-offs as well. There are little things too. Llike the way you progress between song tears and the fact that you get encores. Guitar Hero is still very fun, but I think they really got the formula right with the second game.

Some people (that I remember, those who do the Player One Podcast) have remarked that the song list in Guitar Hero is better than the one in Guitar Hero II. I'm just not seeing it, unless you are really into heavy metal. To me, they both have the about the same appeal in terms of songs. Each tier of songs has one song I really like, another song I think is good, one or two more that I have heard before, and one or two that I have never heard (or only heard in passing). This holds across both games. Guitar Hero II get some props because, though I am unfamiliar with the independent band bonus songs on each game, I do know the Trogdor song.

Because of its lack of practice mode and more difficult hammer-ons and pull-offs, this Guitar Hero seems like the more difficult one. Since I am just learning how to do hard mode in both games, I think it might be to my benefit to go through Guitar Hero II first before coming back to this one. We'll see.