___   ____ _  ___  __                                   
  |__ \ / __ \ |/ / |/ /   ____  ____  ____ ___  ___  _____
  __/ // / / /   /|   /   / __ `/ __ `/ __ `__ \/ _ \/ ___/
 / __// /_/ /   |/   |   / /_/ / /_/ / / / / / /  __(__  ) 
/____/\____/_/|_/_/|_|   \__, /\__,_/_/ /_/ /_/\___/____/  

Sunday, December 31, 2006


Games that Might Have Made My 2006 Games of the Year List if I Had Played Them

[update! Previously empty Zelda section now filled with glistening venom.]

God Hand and Okami
Clover Studio released two beautiful, original titles this year: an over-the-top 3D brawler with insane difficulty and hyper-16-bit humor, and a watercolor-style action-adventure about the goddess Amaterasu in wolf form on a quest to return color to the world. Then Clover Studio closed. It's my fault for not buying the games. But I totally bought Viewtiful Joe!*

*like two years after it came out, for $9.99

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Nintendo delayed the original Gamecube version until after the Wii launch, and then sent an insultingly low supply out. As far as anyone who wanted to purchase the game was concerned, they cancelled it. Now I'm not even sure if I want to get it with my (eventual) Wii out of spite. Dicks.

Dead Rising
A game from the creator of Megaman involving beating zombies with everything you can grab from every store in a mall. I'm glad to see a kind of lighthearted zombie game. It really sounds like something I would have poured bucket after bucket of quarters into.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
Okay, so the PSP does have one game: a Metal Gear Solid game that takes place between MGS3 and Metal Gear, and allows the player to recruit randomly-chosen soldiers based on the location of the WiFi hotspot they are connected to. I am a sucker for Hideo Kojima's little triTURN OFF THE GAME CONSOLE RIGHT NOW

Guitar Hero II
I would totally have bought this, but I still suck ass at the first one. And I refuse to fail the first song of another Guitar Hero's hard mode. Also, the gameplay refinements, while awesome, are mostly limited to multiplayer and don't do me any fucking good. I would like some new songs, though.

Bit Generations series and Rhythm Tengoku
Rhythm Tengoku is a GBA music game from the creators of Wario Ware, and is apparently the best GBA game ever. For me it would have to be, since being a music game automatically makes it better than all of the non-music games on it, and that includes all the Castlevanias and the That's So Raven sequels. No way I'm paying import prices for it, though. Same with the Bit Generations games, which were a series of eight experimental, stylish, minimalist GBA games. I just don't have the finances to pay $25 for Art Pong or whatever, as much as I'd like to.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Games of the Year (Games Released in 2006 that I Played Edition)

In 2006, two new consoles came out, one to massive fanfare and ridiculous lawsuits, and the other an exclusive eBay release, overpriced and undersupported.

I didn't play either of those consoles. I also have yet to play a single Xbox 360 game, aside from the one time I played some WWII game in Toys R Us until I got blown up. I should also mention that I didn't play any PSP games this year, but that's a given since I'm not sure any PSP games even came out this year.

Despite all those launches, as this list reflects, this was the year of the Nintendo DS. What was, last year, a dumb-looking, underpowered console with gimmicky games is now the top gaming platform in the US and Japan. The massive surge in DS popularity affected even my weird-ass gaming habits, because no matter what, whichever system is #1 in Japan is going to be the one that gets the cutesy music games and niche stuff that I love.

Here are the top ten games that I played this year that were actually released this year. Come back tomorrow for the best games this year that I didn't play, and on Monday (hopefully) the best games that I played for the first time this year that didn't come out in 2006! I think that covers all the lists!

As usual, click the pictures for larger screenshots.
10. Phantasy Star Universe

To be honest, I didn't enjoy PSU very much when I rented it. But then, I was playing the single-player game, which I can only describe as "Phantasy Star Online with more cutscenes." I hear the multiplayer is an excellent evolution of the original PSO gameplay, with new levels, enemies, weapons, and all kinds of items that not only require you to kill way too many enemies waiting for a random drop, but then require you to luck out at an item synthesis shop! I'm actually afraid to buy this and try the online game, because I lost a lot of my life to PSO on the Dreamcast, and this sounds even more engaging.

9-7. Big Bumpin', PocketBike Racer, Sneak King

Arriving mere seconds before the world got tired of Burger King's creepy mascot, these three advertising games hearken back to a simpler time when food advertising mascots starred in video games (Kool-Aid Man, California Raisins, Yo! Noid)
I felt sort of subversive by purchasing and enjoying these games, seeing them as kind of a "fuck you" to the other big releases of November, including the Sony Playstation 3. I paid $4 each for these at Burger King, I didn't have to wait in line, and I didn't even need an HDTV.
Plus, none of them included copies of Talladega Nights, which I count as a positive.
Did I mention that they cost $4 each? Because they do. They are the first games to include both Xbox and 360 versions on the same disc, they include multiplayer, and online and achievements and all that (on the 360), plus they're kind of fun, and they cost four damn dollars.

6. Brain Age

I almost didn't want to put this on the list, because it's just barely a game. In fact, if not for the time limits and the score tracking, Brain Age would just be shitty brain exercises. Nintendo brilliantly grafted just enough game into it to make it addictive, challenging players to increase their "brain age" by doing math problems and memory exercises faster every day. This is one of those insidious products designed for Nintendo fans to buy and give to their parents. I don't know exactly why it has sold as well as it has (especially in Japan, where it is one of the best-selling games ever,) although I suspect that people saw the dubious brain performance benefit as a reasonable excuse for playing video games. I enjoyed it for a while (and so did Mary!) but when I tried to play it again previous to writing this, I found that the magic had kind of dissipated, leaving only a vaguely irritating set of activities presented by a condescending head. If you haven't played it enough to get tired of it, it's great! And did I mention there are charts?

5. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

It's a 2D Castlevania game. It's automatically better than just about anything else that comes out. A lot of people are getting tired of Koji Igarashi's nonlinear Metroidvanias, and they have a point-- the earlier Castlevanias were some of the best-designed, most stylish action games ever, and it would be great to have more of them. But we don't really get much of a choice in side-scrolling action anymore, and really the only bad thing about these modern Castlevanias is that they block the possible development of one of those old-style ones.

4. Gyakuten Saiban 2

I hardly ever import games, but I couldn't wait for the US release of this, the sequel to Phoenix Wright. I didn't really play text adventures, graphical or otherwise, when they were popular. But now that they're basically extinct, I'm a huge fan of console graphical text adventures. The cases are clever, the dialogue is well-written and hilarious, and the gameplay-- which consists of alternating "investigation" periods of detective work, and "courtroom" periods of cross-examining witnesses to find contradictions-- is enthralling. Playing Gyakuten Saiban games is like reading a good novel.

3. New Super Mario Bros.

Of all the weird tricks Nintendo has pulled out in the last year or two to (successfully!) coerce everyone in the universe to purchase a DS, New Super Mario Brothers is the most surprising: a real Mario sequel? They haven't done that since Yoshi's Island in 1994, and even that wasn't quite a traditional Mario game. And it's not just a token effort, either: the levels are some of the most carefully designed and well-thought-out of the series, and the genre! Too bad about the ugly 3D graphics, though. I guess they had to make a concession to the gaming environment in 2006.

2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

The original release of Metal Gear Solid 3 was the best release of 2004, and two years later, MGS3 is still good enough to make the list. I am not a double-dip kind of person, generally only having enough money to buy some of the games I want, and then only following a price reduction, and only once! I made an exception for this game, however, because the extras were irresistable: a movie made of recut versions of all the game's cutscenes, a 30-minute Metal Gear retrospective, and ports of the unreleased-in-the-US MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. The main MGS3 game got a new controllable camera and an amazing online multiplayer mode for which my sauce is unfortunately too weak.

1. Elite Beat Agents

It's taken me longer than I wanted to write this post because I keep stopping to play EBA. Whenever I get tired of gaming, or sick of all the shitty treatment fans get from game companies, I invariably find solace in music games. There is much more gaming joy and less bullshit in music games than in any other genre, and playing a great one makes me feel good about what I choose to do with my time. And this one is outstanding: easy-to-learn gameplay that makes perfect use of the DS touch screen, vivid hand-drawn graphics (and some 3D), fun and inspired storylines, a perfect difficulty curve (ending at "screen-piercingly hard"), and, uh, some music too. The music (all bad soundalike covers of pop songs) ranges from guilty pleasures ("YMCA") to dog shit (Sum 41's "Without a Fight"?) The game manages to overcome its musical handicap to become one of the best story-based music games ever released. That much is unsurprising from the developers of the greatest music game ever, Gitaroo Man.

Stenciling Phoenix Wright: An Illustrated Guide!

Possibly my favorite Christmas gift this year was a t-shirt stenciling kit assembled by Mary-- acrylic paint,
fabric-paint medium, freezer paper, foam brushes, and two t-shirts. She also typed up instructions, and staple-bound them zine-style. Mary is pretty awesome.

While we were visiting family, I spent my downtime working on stencil ideas (made so much easier by my new laptop!)-- listing possible sources, collecting images, seeing what they would look like on a t-shirt, and such-- and decided on Phoenix Wright for my first shirt.

These are the materials I used for the project: acrylic paint, some kind of junk that makes acrylic paint work better on fabric, some freezer paper, and my rusty old X-Acto knife (horror movie script pending.) The shirts, instructions, and paint were wrapped together in a gift box; the freezer paper was wrapped separately, and opened first. I didn't exactly know how to react to my gift of freezer paper-- well, I knew how to react (with surprise and delight) but I kind of got the feeling that I was being asked to do housework of some kind via the communication medium of "gift." I was very pleased when this turned out not to be the case.
the design
This is the design, based on graphics ripped from the game (found at Court Records, an excellent Phoenix Wright fansite) and printed as large as it could be on one sheet of paper. The printer decided to cut off some of the picture, and it chose an area that nobody would pay much attention to, the finger, which isn't the focal point of the whole fucking picture or anything. I suppose it could have been my mistake, instructing my
program to "fit to page" and assuming that the picture would then fit on the page it was being printed onto. It's like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all the heavenly glory.
Were you wondering what the freezer paper was for? Probably not, because everyone who can successfully navigate to this blog is smarter than I am. Anyway, I found out after reading the instructions that it adheres temporarily to fabric when ironed on, making it a (presumably) cheap transfer medium for stencils, plus it's translucent so you can easily trace and cut your designs from another sheet of paper. This picture is of the stencil ironed onto the shirt. I kind of like the way it looks in this state, and probably would have kept it, if the freezer paper were not so likely to fall off after the first wash. Oh, and also, wearing freezer paper is for food, and I AM NOT FOOD.
Then I mixed up the paint and the fabric medium and dabbed the mixture onto the shirt-- no dragging for some reason!
A few minutes later, I had a shirt covered in sticky goop! YES. Oh, and incidentally the sticky goop is in the image of the main character from a semi-obscure Nintendo DS graphical text adventure.

Now all I have to do is wait a week (!) for the paint to dry, and then heat set it with the iron, and I will be dressin' in my custom-designed fly threadzz!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I tried Second Life

That's right, I took an exciting step into 2006, and downloaded the hottest game in the "pointless game for people who want to pretend they're doing something important" genre! It didn't run that well on my computer.

Also I just stood around and didn't know how to start conversations with any of the other players. So, just like my real life, except I was "outside!"

Monday, December 11, 2006


Gyakuten Saiban 4 shirt

Promotional t-shirts from Capcom have never been terribly fashionable, but they usually don't resort to slogans or anything either. Usually they'll do a black shirt with the game logo on the front and maybe some character art on the back. They technically would count as ugly t-shirts but they got a pass from me because I usually liked the character art and they were so damned free! I got a lot of these when I worked at Gamestop. Dino Crisis, Resident Evil 2, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Power Stone...

Anyway, having just said that Capcom promo shirts are marginally interesting, I'm featuring one here, for the not-yet-released Gyakuten Saiban 4 for the DS. I'm not entirely sure how much I like the design. The monochrome color scheme is pretty nice, and the logo on the back does look pretty cool, but something about it still screams 'I will argue with you about the relative fighting ability of Naruto characters.' This shirt is less "awesome freelance game writer you meet at a chiptune concert" and just on the side of "guy who has been standing next to the hentai at Sam Goody for 30 minutes and hasn't gotten up the courage to pick up a box off the shelf."

Oh, also it's only available in Japan. About $26, plus shipping if they'll ship here (no idea).

You know what? After looking at this again, I take back everything I said. I think I was knee-jerking because of the usual visual appeal of my Capcom shirts. This one is really cool-looking. I would totally wear it. It doesn't hurt that I love Phoenix Wright/Gyakuten Saiban more than anything else on the DS.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Recursive Space Invaders shirt

I'm feeling kind of down on videogames right now, but I still love videogame t-shirts. This one from the cringe-inducingly named Nerdy Shirts is something I would be happy to wear, even out of the house! It's black, has nice iconic artwork, no awful jokey slogan about how great the '80s were (or worse, a dumb sex joke), and, just to make it interesting, the Invader sprite is made of tiny Invader sprites! Without that feature, it would still be a very nice shirt (t-shirts are best when they're simple and clean-looking!) but the clever design makes it a lot more fun.