Monthly Archives: March 2011

Zero StreetPass tags for me, and zero StreetPass tags for you

Like many others, I bought my Nintendo 3DS the day it launched. In hindsight, we all should have done something else that day–stayed inside the store to set up our systems and StreetPass one another. Because, alas, it’s most likely not going to happen on its own, unless we’re at PAX or plan meet-ups like a bunch of overaged weirdos.

You can read about my first day of walking around with my 3DS by clicking this very sentence. The next three days are very similar to it. A lot of checking, a lot of nothing to check. I’m trying to make a point of keeping my 3DS on in Sleep Mode at every instance because one never knows when I might tag another 3DS owner. In Quick Chek? Maybe. The gas station? Could be. In my bathroom? Time will certainly tell.

I’ve yet to get my first StreetPass tag notification. Stephen Totilo from Kotaku, who lives–mind you–in New York City, only just got his first recently, and from the most unlikeliest of places. It’s definitely something worth celebrating because they’re going to be few and far between as the days go on. I assumed that since stock in my small hometown sold out on Day One that I’d be in reach of someone else that had a 3DS, but it seems that I’ve been deceived.

If you own a 3DS, it is now your duty to carry it around in Sleep Mode, ready for tagging. Your duty as a gamer. And also because I’m sick of hiring cats with swords to try and save my kidnapped Mii and want your help.

I’ll be in NYC myself pretty soon, and if I come back with a completely empty Mii plaza, I’m going to give up on the function entirely. It sounds promising, but it still lacks integration and a wider net.

Here’s some unused Grinding Down images

As my dear readers know, I like to do things a certain way here at Grinding Down. Specifically, I’m talking about how every post is headlined with a photoshopped image a la LOLCats. I take a lot of pride in finding the right image, adding the right words, and tinkering with it to follow the right format. And by right, I mean my format. Anal-retentive Pauly is anally retentive.

However, sometimes I create images in hopes of posting about them, but then things happen, life gets tossed upside-down, and I never get around to musing about X and/or Y. Here, then, are some images I was gonna use as topic starters. Have fun figuring out what each one was gonna be about:

There you go. A little behind-the-scenes glimpse into how things work around here. Isn’t blogging just fascinating?

30 Days of Gaming, #7 – Favorite game couple

Mario and Princess Peach, Sonic and Amy, Solid Snake and Meryl Silverburgh, Cloud Strife and Aeris Gainsborough, Mr. Pac-Man and Mrs. Pac-Man. These are some of the most famous gaming couples. Many are borderline platonic; others are not.

It’s unclear to me, and maybe most of the Internet, if my favorite gaming couple loves one another romantically, or if their friendship, their dependence on each other is what rings truer in their hearts. Certainly there’s some past adventures they do not speak of, some tension and flirting. Hard not to charm it up when one half of this equation is the suave, cocky Balthier, and the other is the super old, but super vivacious viera warrior Fran. Together, they try to rule the skies.

First, some Final Fantasy XII backstory. Balthier is a young sky pirate and the pilot of the airship Strahl. His copilot is seemingly the complete opposite, an otherworldly viera—that means rabbit-like—woman named Fran that is extremely sensitive to Mist magic, as well as a truly seductive lisp. They depend on each other, and they depend even more on their ability to take from anyone what they want, and it’s this blatant thievery that gets them mixed up with Vaan and Ashe during the chaos of a rebel assault on the palace.

And so they are a team, a couple. Pilot and copilot. Voice and reason. Hume and viera. It’s never openly said that they love each other, that their feelings drop deep, but the subtle looks they share speak volumes:

You meet them as one entity, and you’ll never see them as anything else but together. There is no Fran without Balthier, and the other way around. When out grinding for bazaar items and experience points, you’re allowed to use a three-person team. This usually meant Vaan and two others: Ashe, Basch, Balthier, and Fran. Sorry, Penelo. Battling monsters and using gambits isn’t for kids. Anyways, I never separated the combo, and they worked well with each other, both offering ranged attacks and strong Quickenings. However, come the end of the game, I had to rely on Basch the Tank for most of my boss slaying. Still, these two characters remain my favorite gaming couple for what they don’t say and are only closely followed in the franchise by Zidane and Garnet from Final Fantasy IX.

30 Days of Gaming, #6 – Most annoying character

Hmm…something about this feels familiar. Oh, right. That’s because last November, I wrote up a little post about my top five most annoying videogame sidekicks, focusing in on the sidekicky aspect of the business. I mean, adventuring into the unknown is one thing, but doing it with a chatty brat is another. Sure, any of those could easily get smashed into bits by today’s 30 Days of Gaming topic train, but I decided to think some more and found a few other contenders. And we’re going with Tom Nook, simply for his sheer audacity to never, ever change.

Tom Nook is a raccoon tanuki that runs a shop called Nook’s Cranny in your town in all versions of Animal Crossing. He starts out as a nice fella, giving you a home to live in. One small caveat though: you’ll have to pay him for it, and he’s okay with payments over time, so long as you eventually pay it off. Once you do, he’ll expand your house, opening up more rooms to decorate…so long as you keep paying him, too. That’s fine. That’s kind of how it works in real life, minus the talking raccoon, I think.

Where he gets truly annoying is in his shop. You enter Nook’s Cranny (clean thoughts, dear readers!), and he welcomes you, and gives you a list of options. You do your things, peruse his wares, and leave, but not before he can get the last word in: “Thank you! Do come again! I look forward to seeing you!” You can never just enter and leave uninhibited, like countless RPGs that let you waltz into that potions shop, knock over some bottles, and leave before anyone notices. No, not at Nook’s Cranny. Not in Nook’s book. He will greet you, he will part with you. He never breaks form. He’s like that Obama smile video. He’s like braindead. He’s like…overtly annoying.

And then he follows you around the store, like a used cars salesman, like a true furniture pusher, like an ex-lover with a vengeance. You can run rings around his desk of player tools, but he’ll catch up to you eventually. Unfortunately, the only way to determine what some of the wallpapers/carpets are is to ask him, and you have to then mash the buttons until you can get him to stop.

You want more? Evidently, after you’ve fully upgraded his shop to Nookington’s, Tom will randomly ask you some questions, and the wrong answers will result in him downgrading the store back to its original format. All that shopping…for nothing.

I’m pretty excited about all the possibilities that Animal Crossing 3DS could hit on the head, but if Tom Nook is around, well, I’m gonna be several hundred thousand bells short of excitement.

Chomping and wall-jumping my way to fun in Monster Tale

My current stats for Monster Tale say that I’ve now played the game for three hours and five minutes, clearing 28.4% of everything. I think this is an excellent stopping point to hand out some free impressions about Ellie’s journey into the unknown. To start—it’s super fun. The story is light and bouncy, and kind of reminds me of a Saturday morning cartoon plotline: a bunch of kids leave home to become rulers of a foreign realm where they also enslave monsters to do their evil work. Enter Ellie, a young, spritely girl who stumbles upon a magical band (the thing you wear on your arm, not the thing you pay too much to see perform badly live) and an egg which hatches into a powerful monster. Jealous of her connection to Chomp, these unmanaged kids seek to steal back what they believe is rightfully theirs.

Much like how Shadow Complex was done in honor of Super Metroid, Monster Tale feels to be honoring the same game, as well as the Castlevania titles for the Nintendo DS. The overall aesthetic is friendly, with bright colors and cuddly enemy lifeforms, and I simply love that the save rooms are in libraries, and that to save you press up on the D-pad. It feels so good to save. Ellie can use either a melee attack or shoot balls of energy from her band; I’ve found that melee is most often the way to go, and the better your combo for killing, the greater your monetary reward is. Or sometimes you’ll get a slice of cold pizza. Win-win, really.

The platforming…it’s solid, but a little slow to start with. Thank goodness for the wall-jump ability, which makes backtracking and traveling in general smoother. You travel left and right, up and down, and there’s definitely obvious sections that will be accessed later after you’ve acquired the right ability. The usual platforming pitfalls prevail, too, with ledges that vanish upon touch, ones that bounce her high into the air, and others that move back and forth.

Chomp’s a nice addition to the party. He mostly attacks enemies on the top DS screen, and regains health on the bottom one, as well as devours food, kicks soccer balls, and learns new skills. The eating animations for him are made of pure smiles. So far, he’s learned several forms to evolve into, and the one I’m currently upgrading is called Wrecker, which means he enjoys exploding, meat, and exercise. That might sound silly until I tell you that his previous form loved ice cream. And here’s where it gets really RPG-like; each Chomp form levels up on its own, gaining stats from whatever you have him eat or how he attacks enemies; players can switch between forms on the fly, too, without the fear of losing all that hard-earned experience.

My only irks so far is that, on occasion, Ellie will roll forward when I actually want her to jump down to the ledge below. Also, the noise that plays when text scrolls along—does that have a name?—is annoying and not needed. Remember, silence is golden.

Boss battles are good, but I’m worried they are all gonna be too much alike, wherein Ellie fights one of the kids and a monster they control. Doesn’t take long to learn the patterns, and the toughest parts is just keeping Ellie’s health up as there’s no way to replenish it during a battle sequence. Regardless, I’m looking forward to giving Priscilla a smackdown. She reminds me of Darla Dimple from that 1997 classic Cats Don’t Dance.

But yeah, almost one-third of my way through Monster Tale and loving it immensely. It’s definitely proof that this pre-3DS system still has a lot to say. Stay tuned for more coverage.

A Day in the Life of my Nintendo 3DS

I was fairly late in getting my Nintendo 3DS on its launch day. In fact, I took so long going out to get it that my local Target sold out of its entire stock a few hours before I arrived. Alas, I had to then try out GameStop, where I knew they’d piss and moan about me not pre-ordering the system, something I was uninterested in listening to. Another reason I wanted to pick up the system in a non-GameStop store was that I have these American Express gift cheques–they work like cash, but for some reason a lot of places give me grief for them, and recently, GameStop alerted me to the fact that they no longer accept them as a mean of payment. Boo to that.

But I lucked out at GameStop, and when I say lucked out, I mean I truly got lucky. According to generic teenage employee #3, I bought the last Nintendo 3DS available to non-pre-order folk, as well as the last copy they had of Pilotwings Resort in stock. This was around 4:30 in the afternoon, too. Amazing, right? Glad I didn’t wait any longer in the end. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.

Before we start, here’s a pic of the wife and I moments before unboxing my new darling:

Yup, we’re so excited that beams of light are coming out of our joined heads. The power that is Nintendo?

Okay, let’s do this.

7:00 AM: After spending the remainder of the night charging in its adorable little plastic cradle, my Nintendo 3DS is ready for the day. I flip it on, switch the system to Sleep Mode, close the lid, and pocket the beast. Now to start walking. Alas, my apartment is tiny, and I only had to go to the closet and bathroom before heading down to my car. Maybe I’ll StreetPass someone while driving to work? Maaaaaaybe.

8:15 AM: I have arrived at work. Before heading into the office, I check out my stats. Looks like I’ve got some notifications. Oh…no. It’s just Nintendo telling me how the pedometer and Play Coins work. And amazingly, I now have three Play Coins in my bank. I’m told I can only earn a total of 10 a day, with the bank cap set at 300. Ten a day feels a little stingy, especially since I was able to earn three in such a small amount of time. Looks like 100 steps equals a Play Coin. Gonna flip the 3DS off again, and will mostly see how things are going on my lunch hour.

9:45 AM: There’s a dark compulsion building in me to check to see if I’ve gotten any new notifications. This is indicated by a blinking orange light when the 3DS is closed shut. But I will be strong and just wait a few more hours…

12:05 PM: Left the office as fast as a hobbit with a bad back can, hopped into my car, and quickly pulled out my 3DS. Flipped the lid to discover…no StreetPass tags. That’s okay. Not a surprise. Figured no one in my office building other than me probably had a system activated. However, surprisingly, it said I had walked a total of 1,100+ steps so far. Meaning, I had earned my quota of Play Coins for the day.

12:35 PM: Purposely ate near the GameStop in Parsippany so that, afterwards, I could walk around and maybe StreetPass some Miis. Maybe some store employees had theirs on in their pockets? According to my research, um….no. However, a young fella was purchasing a 3DS and Super Street Fighter IV 3D when I was in there. Was kind of tempted to be like, “Dude! Open it up now! Let’s StreetPass!”

Anyways, defeated, I went back to my car to spend some of these Play Coins. First, I purchased two heroes for the Find Mii minigame, which is just a simple, dungeon-crawling RPG where your Mii has been captured and other Miis must fight monsters to advance. You also unlock special hats to wear. And the hired help? Yeah, they’re cats with swords. Pretty adorable. I then spent another two Play Coins to get a puzzle piece, which looks like will eventually reveal a large Legend of Zelda image. Neat-o.

I dig these Play Coins, and really hope many forthcoming games take advantage of ‘em. Despite having hit my Play Coins cap for the day, I’m curious to see how many more steps I’ll get in the office, so the 3DS goes back to sleep in my pocket.

2:55 PM: Quick bathroom back. The 3DS is still in my pocket, and I did not drop it into the 3DS toilet. Praise the Maker.

4:00 PM: Tried to add a Twitter friend as a 3DS friend, but since I did not set up Internet access on the system for my work area, I’ll have to wait until home at the Leaky Cauldron.

6:05 PM: No StreetPass tags while driving home. C’mon, people. Turn your 3DS on when driving!

6:30 PM: Used my last four Play Coins to buy some more heroes for Find Mii, which got me to the next level, as well as unlocked a new hat (cat ears, meooow). Added a Twitter friend to my list and discovered he was currently online, playing some AR Games. Nintendo supports stalking! Anyways, got some other stuff to do tonight so the 3DS goes into its cradle to charge, despite using up very little battery life today.

11:00 PM: Played some more Pilotwings Resorts, earning enough medals to move on to the Silver challenges. One of them has my Mii falling from the sky in a flying squirrel suit! It’s pretty awesome, especially with a tiny bit of 3D enabled. I also tried out my copy of Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, and was sad to truly discover that, yes, there’s a significant drop in quality for DS games on the 3DS. Text was blurry, and the graphics were muddled. A dang shame, but that’s also why I didn’t trade in my DS Lite, as I plan to get a lot out of it for many more years.

And so this concludes my Nintendo 3DS’ first full day of action. It went okay. Hackettstown, NJ, is certainly no Akihabara Electric Town, but I am going to New York City in two weeks and am hopeful that many other 3DS users will be out and about, ready to StreetPass. If not, I doubt I’ll ever get much use out of the system’s connectivity functions.

30 Days of Gaming, #5 – Character you feel most like

This is gonna be a tough one, Grinding Down readers.

Mass Effect‘s Joker, real name Jeff Moreau, suffers from brittle bone disease, which is more scientifically called osteogenesis imperfecta. It’s the sort of disease that steers your life, causing extreme brittleness in the bones. Ultimately, Joker was born with severe fractures to his legs, and, as an adult now, he can barely walk. That didn’t stop him from excelling at flight school though and becoming a pilot. The Normandy‘s bridge is his home, his heart.

I don’t suffer from osteogenesis imperfecta. I do, however, have a bad left knee prone to popping out of place, and I walked on my tippy-toes for the longest time as a young child, but other than that, Joker and I are far from physically alike. Save for the beard. We both have sexy beards. I’m not gonna be a beardhole and claim that mine is the better. You can make that call yourself. But yeah, we’re total beard buds.

So, Joker and I are not alike physically. Wherein our sameness sits is in how we interact with people. Seth Green voices Joker, and 97.6% of Green’s acting work has been in comedy. He’s got a funny voice, a funny way of replying, good snark, all that. It’s natural then that Joker is, like Firefly‘s Wash, a funny pilot, often cracking jokes and commenting light-heartedly about Commander Shepard’s actions outside of the spaceship. He’s both comic relief and a rock that keeps everybody soaring safely through the galaxy. Depending on how you play Mass Effect, that’s all he could be, too. Paul Shepard, however, was a good guy, an everyman, and took the time to talk to Joker, to listen to the sad story of his upbringing, to understand where the bitterness lining his jokes came from. And he kept coming back after every mission, to include him, to hear his thoughts…to make sure he was doing a-okay.

I can be sarcastic; I can make nearly anyone laugh; I can bottle everything up and do my job–because it’s my job–and resent things I have absolutely no control over, and I can dance around topics with the swiftest feet this side of the Atlantic Ocean. We both wield humor as armor and wear it well, fully, careful to show no gaps. Unfortunately, we don’t need to wear it all the time, but lack the strength to undress ourselves, to show our companions and comrades who we are, to sit quiet and still, in the buff, brittle and scared, ripe for the reaping. With his weakened legs, he can only go so far; with my damaged heart, so can I.