Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Things I Did Yesterday: The Post

Yesterday was my first big day stepping out from the auspices of the World Wide Internet. I would say it was a smashing success.

I sat down and played a game of the original Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 500 Wii points) on my Wii's Virtual Console. I know it's not particularly different than staring at a computer monitor, but it got me out of my bedroom and that was different enough. The game itself: everybody knows it. It's a classic. It came bundled with every Nintendo Entertainment System. After years of advancement in gaming technology and numbers of wonderful sequels, does it stand the test of time?

Well hell yeah it does.

The game is not only still fun, but it's challenging too. I bought it a little over a week ago, and I have yet to make it through. I made it to World 7-4, and I got stuck at Bowser and his stupid hammer attack. I have no idea how I beat this game when I was a kid.

Of the five virtual console games I've bought, I only regret one--the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Konami, 600 Wii points) for the NES, which is just as impossible now as it was when I was six. I can't make it past the first water stage. The controls are clunky, the graphics are glitchy as hell, and I really had no interest in going back and trying to do any better.

There are some fun ideas in the game--especially the ability to switch characters at a whim to utilize their various weapons' strengths and conserve health--but ultimately it falls flat. The first boss fight--Bebop the mutant warthog--is virtually impossible, and I can't get past him without losing two of my four turtles. Virtual Console Game Genie, anybody?

For the Nintendo Entertainment system games, there are three ways to control. You can turn your Wiimote on its side, allowing for the 1 and 2 buttons to function as NES's A and B. The Wiimote doesn't fit well into your hands, and I'd strongly recommend going for one of the other options.

If you have a GameCube controller or four lying around, you can plug them directly into the console. The A and B buttons function as...well, the A and B buttons. You can control movement with either the directional pad or the analog control stick (although obviously you're limited to only four axises of movement). It's not the best option (at least for these NES games), but it's fairly cheap. My Wal Mart was blowing out third-party GameCube controllers for ten bucks a pop when the Wii came out, and last I saw there were still some on the shelves.

Third option is probably the best one, but it'll set you back twenty bucks per controller. That's the Wii Classic Controller (Nintendo, $19.99). It's laid out essentially like the Super Nintendo paddle, except they squeezed a couple of analog control sticks on there and some shoulder buttons. The NES A and B buttons are controlled by the Classic Controller's A and B or X and Y buttons. The X and Y seem a little more comfortable for me. It's completely ergonomic (especially for the simple NES games).

The only drawback to the Classic Controller is that it has to be connected to a Wiimote. It'll suck those AA batteries dry, so forget about charging that puppy when you're doing some classic gaming. That also means that if you want to play multiplayer classic games, you'll not only need a $20 Classic Controller, but also a $40 Wiimote for each player (or the slightly more economical GameCube controllers if you can find them).

I'd call Nintendo's Virtual Console an unmitigated success, assuming you have the cognizance to be fairly picky with your choices. For every Super Mario Bros there will be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so do your research and read reviews beforehand. Sometimes nostalgia won't serve you well.

Then again, sometimes it will, and it seems like Nintendo releases at least one worthwhile classic game per week that is well worth your money. NES games retail for 500 or 600 Wii points (about $5 or $6) depending on which company released them. Sure, you could easily download these things illegally and run them on emulators, but there's something to be said about owning something, and enjoying it on the big screen television.

I read the latter half of a collection of short stories. The book was Samuel Johnson is Indignant: Stories by Lydia Davis. Davis visited my school for a reading about two months ago, and I was so enthralled that I picked this up immediately thereafter.

Her writing is fresh, and out of the ordinary in that she follows no particular structure. Some of her stories are like the traditional short story--twenty pages long, maybe more. Other "stories" are one page long; one paragraph long; one line long. Davis is terse and to the point in all of her stories, and yet still whimsical enough to not read like stereo instructions. Her prose is almost like poetry--every word has a weight and significance to it that much of fiction--at least for me--does not have. Take, for example, this excerpt from her piece entitled "Letter to a Funeral Parlor."
We noticed that before the death of my father you and your representative used the words loved one to refer to him. That was comfortable for us, even if the ways in which we loved him were complicated.
Then we were sitting there in our chairs in the living room trying not to weep in front of your representative, who was opposite us on the sofa, and we were very tired first from sitting up with my father, and then from worrying about whether he was comfortable as he was dying, and then from worrying about where he might be now that he was dead, and your representative referred to him as "the cremains."
At first we did not even know what he meant. Then, when we realized, we were frankly upset. Cremains sounds like something invented as a milk substitute in coffee, like Cremora, or Coffee-mate. Or it sounds like some kind of chipped beef dish.
Everything in the collection is like this--bittersweet and funny and philosophical and fairly meaningful. I would strongly recommend the book, and I'll definitely be reading more of her stuff in the near future.

Mandatory stories: "Old Mother and the Grouch," "First Grade: Handwriting Practice," "The Furnace," "The Silence of Mrs. Iln"

So that's all the reviewable stuff. I watched what was, I think, the only episode of South Park I had never seen. I also was social with my friend Theresa and joined a gym, where I swam, jacuzzi-ed, saunaed, and ran three miles. Today will be more misadventure, and it will be reported in the future (i.e. probably tomorrow).

1 comment:

Review the World said...

I really enjoyed this entry – I liked the format. I need to get away from my subconscious battle that every article (of my own) doesn’t have to be an epic. I think I’m spoiled from too much X-E. I’d like to start incorporating more of a blog-style akin to your stuff on occasion. I also read and watch stuff on a constant basis, so there are a lot of potential reviews that I could capitalize on. Sorry you got burned on the TMNT game. I was always big fan of North vs. South for the NES; although, I doubt it holds up to today’s standards.