Monthly Archives: September 2010

Knives Chau DLC announced for Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game

I’ve still not gotten past Roxie in Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game, but the makers of said title care very little for my insufficient gaming skills as new DLC has just been announced for the game. For about $1.99, the new DLC will give us a new character to play as–Knives Chau, 17 years old, Chinese–and two new modes to experience: Dodge Ball and Battle Royale. The former is more or less what you think it is, and the latter is more akin to a Super Smash Bros style gameplay. This DLC should supposedly coincide with the film’s November 2010 release on DVD, which I’m totally buying Day One.

More Scott Pilgrim goodness for a measly two bucks? Count me in.

Also, there’s going to be a patch released soon to help fix the difficulty level of “Average Joe” as well as knock out some annoying bugs found throughout. The first time SPVTWTG froze on me I thought it was the devs having a laugh at how old games like that would crash all the time. The third and fourth time it froze, I was no longer smiling. So this is a must-need-now sort of thingy. I really like bitesize DLC and free patches, all in all.

Want some early screenshots? Click below…

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REVIEW: Mini Ninjas

Developer/Publisher: IO Interactive, Magic Pockets/Eidos Interactive, Warner Bros.
Platform: PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, Wii, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Mac OS X
Genre(s): Action-adventure, stealth
Mode(s): Singe player
Rating: ESRB: E10+
Time clocked: Around five hours

Ninjas never have it easy. Not even mini ones.

See, many moons ago, an evil samurai warlord was banished after too many evil deeds, and the empire in feudal Japan sat in peace and tranquility for a good, long while. But we all know that could only last so long; dark storms began to brew over distant mountaintops, floods and earthquakes became common happenings, and mysterious figures were caging wild animals for unknown purposes. Guess who’s back? Evil Samurai Warlord™, duh.

Growing worrisome, the Ninja Master, the classic relic-old being of supreme skill and wisdom seen in every ninja-related medium ever, sends out his best ninjas to discover the truth about the storms and what evil is stirring nearby. However, none return. With only two ninjas left under his chest-high belt, he reluctantly puts Hiro and Futo to the task of rescuing their friends and saving the world.

And that’s the plot in Mini Ninjas. There’s not much to it; no surprises, no twists, no explanations whatsoever on what these evil soldiers plan to do with all their caged animal friends. As Hiro, you sneak/fight forward until you battle one of the Evil Samurai Warlord’s henchmen, defeat it via a Quick Time Event (sigh), and continue on until the end of the game. The levels are structured as pseudo-open boxes, with multiple paths to explore, but ultimately only one will lead you to its end. A couple cutscenes show the ESW getting mad at his peons, offering a pinch of humor, but other than that, there’s little story being actually told here. Evil is evil, and good is good, and when they throw down arms, good will defeat evil (but only for a limited time).

There are six ninjas to play as, and unfortunately you don’t get the best one until near the game’s end. Each has their own set of skills and uses. Hiro can use Kuji magic and target multiple enemies at once; Futo wields a mallet and rolls into a ball to attack; Suzume plays an enchanting flute song; Shun specializes in bow and arrows, sniping soldiers from afar; Tora is part-tiger and a waste of character selection space; and lastly, Kunoichi, the spear wielder, is the best ninja next to Hiro thanks to her far reach. Each ninja is adorably designed, and unlocking them in-game rewards you with a special bonus video to watch that shows how they arrived at the Ninja Master’s dojo. These are so beautifully animated that it is jarring to the in-game’s visuals, which are, well…maybe a centimeter above the Nintendo Wii. My personal favorite character trailer is, not surprisingly, Kunoichi’s, as shown below:

Unfortunately, the challenge to save the world is no challenge at all. I started my playthrough on medium difficulty, the standard as it were, but switched to hard by midway through and found there to be little difference. The only time I ever died was when I miscalculated a ledge jump and plummeted down the abyss; only I didn’t actually die, but rather respawned on the ledge with one less heart to my name. So, uh, guess that doesn’t count. The enemies are not very tough, and only a couple require a specific strategy, such as the big guys or the stealthy ones. Plus, the alchemy here allows one to make a ton of healing potions, and there’s always a tree or bush of fruit at arms’ length. No worries, really.

What Mini Ninjas is though is charming and stylish, but a bit bland. Co-op (both local and online) is missing, and that’s a shame because it’s clearly a videogame designed to be played by parents and their kids. It would’ve been awesome for one player to scout ahead and another to circle around until the signal sounded and then they both attacked at once. I loved the tranquil music and style of it all, but found myself moving through it very fast, as well as a bit disappointed. The boss battles are a smelly joke, and yes, Boss Windy Pants, I’m talking mostly about you. I’d probably be even more disappointed if I shelled out $60.00 for this when it was first released, but I got this copy for around $20.00, and so it was a decent filler, a mediocre platformer, and a healthy reminder that not all good things come in small packages.

Nintendo 3DS coming to the United States in March 2011

…and I’m totally not gonna buy it on launch day!

Sure, it is coming loaded with bells and whistles out the whazoo, but I’m not entirely sold yet on why, seeing as my Nintendo DS Lite from 2007 is running magically and just as awesome as any other DS iteration, I need this. I’m definitely going to sit back and watch the playing field very carefully; the fact that the 3D aspect of it can be turned off entirely boggles my mind because then you’d just be using an enhanced DSi, and I need to know how much it is worth that experience. Early reviews will be telling, but 3D gaming is something one must experience for themselves, and seeing that I have terrible eyesight, this is looking less and less like something fun, and more of a struggle to get into.

As always, Japan gets to gobble it up first, and the Nintendo 3DS will be released there on February 26 for 25000 yen (about $300). And then Europe and the United States will get it some time in March 2011, but when and for how much is not yet known. Though I feel like those Nintendo reps wouldn’t mind charging us gamers $300 or more for a handheld videogame console we already purchased numerous times before. The only possibility I’d consider in getting this would be due to an awesome trade-in deal, but even then, it’d be hard to part with my Lite…we’ve shared so many good times together, and it’s not like it’s out-of-date or faulty. It just now has to compete with shinier toys.

Anyways, here’s a better picture of the final Nintendo 3DS design:

What do y’all think of it? Mmm analog stick nub thingy…

Harvest Moon meets FarmVille meets a mouthful of sleeping pills

I’ve spent the past two weeks so far packing up my little studio apartment and slowly moving everything over to Tara and I’s new place, now officially known as The Leaky Cauldron. Cause, uh, when it rains, the ceiling leaks. How fun! And I’ve discovered a number of videogames that I bought and kind of forgot about as I shove them into boxes and bags. One unmemorable piece of plastic and coding turned out to be Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, which I bought during an extreme spout of depression back in late June. I thought it might help fill the mild void that FarmVille left; side note, I was never addicted to the Facebook farming game, but I did log in every day for a few months to see what was what, but eventually lost interest despite liking the idea of crafting a piece of land into exactly what I wanted.

It’s a farming game with a mix of monster killing/monster raising, but I never got very far with it. It’s also been described as “Harvest Moon where you wield a sword.” The mechanics of it all though were very cold and regimented, leaving me confused and unsure of my farming skills. I basically started the game as Raguna, a fellow suffering from amnesia and wandering into the local town called Kardia. There he meets a girl named Mist who gives him a piece of land to farm and then…well, then you farm it. No tutorial really, no explanation. Exploring the city’s shops and houses allows Raguna to meet a host of characters, eventually finding himself face to face with the mayor who will allow him to enter the first cave and clear it of nasty monsters attacking Kardia. From there, Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is open-ended. You can continue farming, trying to earn money by selling logs, woo women from town, or go cave-clearing. Or you can do what I did and try to clear the first monster cave only to get so far and then run out of health, exit out to rest, and go back to find ALL THE MONSTERS I PREVIOUSLY KILLED RESPAWNED. Meaning, I was not moving forward, only wasting my time.

Supposedly the storyline will not continue on unless new caves aren’t opened and cleared by beating the boss at the end. Greaaaaaaat.

Well, let’s try farming. Maybe I will become an expert farmer instead of a supreme warrior. So, in Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, you have two gauges to keep track of: Hit Points and Rune Points. I think we all know how HP functions (if not, maybe Grinding Down isn’t the blog for you), but Rune Points more or less convert to stamina, and just about every single action Raguna takes uses up RP. If you run out of RP, then every subsequent action depletes your HP bar. Let’s take a look at what uses RP: digging, planting, watering, picking crops, swinging weapon, cooking food, and so on. RP is essential to living life, and it’s a shame because after maybe planting 9 seeds and then watering them, you’ll have run out of RP and are then forced to go to bed to restore your bar. And that, to me, seemed to be all I could do, day in, day out. I tried selling some logs and plants to make some money, but had no idea what to buy.

Either I’m missing something or I’m just not good at this game. It might be a mix of the two, but I found myself growing bored very fast as doing the same exact tactics over and over was not very fun. Maybe someone can explain it to me? If anything, Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is a gorgeous-looking game. So there’s that at least, but it’ll most likely never get played again…

Mini Ninjas won and lost points with me in a single hour

You know those commercials for Sour Patch Kids candy where the little candy dude/dudette is first sour to someone and then really sweet? That’s kind of how it was the other night in Mini Ninjas. Let me bullet point it for y’all.

SOUR: The second boss battle you encounter is against Windy Pants, a towering beast of a man that got his namesake from…well, his strong skills with flatulence. He farts. He farts at you, and that’s how he attacks. Fart, fart, fart. Big green gassy clouds of stinky death. Braaaaaawp. It’s a silly, stupid fight–a QTE to boot–and I can’t believe a number of people thought this was a good idea; I mean, I can see them wanting to add in some humor to the game, but they don’t really do much funny stuff anywhere else (unless Futo eating lots of apples is a riot?) so this was a bit jarring.

SWEET: Of all the mini ninjas you’ll control, Hiro, the main, uh, “average Joe” one, can use Kuji magic. He has to spend Ki (a blue meter at the bottom) to cast spells like turning into a walking bush, taking control of animals, and throwing sonic booms at samurai grunts from a safe distance. And after you spend 1,500 Ki you’ll unlock this Achievement:

No Conjurer of Cheap Tricks (20G): Expend 1500 Ki using Kuji magic

Mmm…Gandalf would be proud! There’s a couple of other good non-LOTR Achievements unlocked now, most of which are punny or kind of jokey, such as Boardom and Bow Before Me. And I’m just breezing through the game too, a tad disappointing. I suspect that the next time I sit down to play I’ll probably complete it, and then go back for any collectathon Achievements and such. I am having fun as Hiro just attacking and sneaking and all that, but overall, the game’s very easy, very stylish, but a bit hollow once you get inside it.

It’s TV time for Fallout: New Vegas

I can’t recall if there ever was a TV commercial for Fallout 3, but kind of doubt many would’ve seen it anyways despite the huge hit that game came to be in 2008. This one above, however, should get a lot of love. It’s a mix of CG film and in-game action, all set to some snappy, jazzy Vegas tunes, and I’m gonna definitely try to keep an eye out for it…though I really don’t watch a lot of television these days. Wonder what channels/shows this will pop up around.

Also, woo…dynamite!

We’ve got 23 days to go…

Granted, that’s just a countdown until Fallout: New Vegas is released. I’ll be on my honeymoon then and won’t get to really play it for several more days later. Kind of a mix of happy/sad on that one, y’know?


As of late, I’ve been craving some old-school style action platformer action first fed to me by games like Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, and Ratchet and Clank. Alas, the Xbox 360 is not really a great home to these kinds of games. It prefers shooters and…uh, shooter hybrids? Seems to be that way. Which is a shame. It’s not a dying breed, it’s just one that hasn’t gotten a lot of platform support (mind the pun there). For a bit, I really thought I was gonna be at a loss on what to look for…

But then I remembered playing the demo for a kid-friendly wee game called Mini Ninjas. And I had a fun time with it! I concluded my demo impressions then with the point that I’d not buy it if it retailed for $60.00, and unfortunately it did at its release time. Too pricey for my skin. But I’m a patient hobbit, and waiting is what I do best. Stopped by the local GameStop tonight after getting very depressed about packing up all my shtuff and got a used copy for $20.00, which is a much better dealio. The clerk though never heard of the game and had me repeat it for him like so:

GameStop clerk: Mini…Ninjas?
Me: Mini…Ninjas.

So far, I’ve played through the tutorial level and first level which has you rescuing a female ninja from a cage. The gameplay is varied and fun, and I get a kick out of putting on that huge woven hat or using it to float down a stream. The controls are solid, and I am kind of paying attention to the storyline…not really. Something about missing ninjas and an evil dude? Oh, and you get to collect plants to make items. Every game should have alchemy in it. Every. Single. Videogame. Yes, even you, Rock Band. Right now though I’ve more or less played the same parts that I got to play in the demo version and am looking forward to new terrain and troubles.


Ah, Donkey Kong CountryOnly for Nintendo. And they meant it.

I was, in fact, never a subscriber to Nintendo Power (sorry, Greg Noe!), but somehow still got access to a VHS tape called Donkey Kong Country: Exposed, which was a behind-the-scenes tour of Nintendo of America’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, with bonus early game footage and tips from testers on how to access hidden bonus stages. Think I “borrowed” the tape from a friend’s house. Ahem. “Borrowed.” And it, much like the game itself, ended up parting with me some time during my switch from SNES to PlayStation 1. I have a strong feeling though that the VHS tape sold at a neighborhood yardsale for 50 cents. Oh yeah, made a profit.

Moving on, this plus about four other SNES titles more or less were my collection for the longest time. Money was tight, and if I didn’t get a game for Christmas, well…I was just a wee lad then that would water the grass or wash a neighbor’s car for pocket money. Was not rolling it, as they say. I relied a lot on renting games for a few days or borrowing them from a friend. Notice I said borrow and not “borrow”; no way I would’ve gotten away with something like that, not when a kid’s SNES or Sega Genesis was his or her only friend. Oh, and those other games consisted of Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, and–don’t laugh, kids–Jurassic Park. I’ll talk about Jurassic Park for the SNES one day, but I am just not ready yet; the scars have not healed.

It’s clear that Donkey Kong Country came to be from other platformers of that day and age, most namely Super Mario Bros. The plot is essentially the same. Instead of saving the princess, you need to save DK’s stolen banana loot. The game has you collecting bananas in levels for extra lives; you can die by falling down holes in the level or getting touched by enemies; and you use a world map to select where you want to go. Sure, sure, the game did some original things too, but it pays a lot of homage to its elders.

But Donkey Kong Country is a very memorable game, and I think fondly about it a lot. The music, the jumping, the level progression, the mine carts, and the shooting from barrel to barrel to moving barrel. There was a lot going on within, and it was very successful in pushing the SNES to its limits and then mocking rival 32-bit and CD-ROM based consoles with purported superior processing power. I think many will first remember the pre-rendered 3D graphics, which really helped bring the 2D side-scrolling platformer to life; the early jungle levels are full of green and treetops and towering hills while the snow levels are replete with blizzards and glistening ledges. This engine was also used on Rare’s other title Killer Instinct, still in my collection now.

By and far though, my favorite stages in Donkey Kong Country were any where you rode an animal. These included Rambi the Rhino, Expresso the Ostrich, Enguarde the Swordfish, Winky the Frog, and Squawks the Parrot, and all were tied to a specifically themed level. Yup, even as frustrating as the underwater levels were, once you got on that swordfish it was ::ahem:: clear swimming from there. Later games would introduce even more animals, and those also were worth looking forward to.

The only negatives I ever put on Donkey Kong Country‘s shoulders were its coin-based save system and boss battles. The boss battles all followed a very repetitive strategy and once you figured that out, it was hit ’em, hit ’em, an hit ’em dead. I ate everything else up with wide eyes and an open heart.

Tara and I combined our SNES collections back when we first started dating in 2008, and she had Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, a pleasant surprise, as well as a decent filler for the time being. That said, I’m definitely interested in seeing how Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii plays out despite having a paper-flat title.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Stop dreaming about the Inception videogame spin-off

…cause it might be happening. And that just really puts a damper on a great thing, an original and wonderful IP that is now on its way down the ; they can’t just let things be. Here’s what Inception filmmaker Christopher Nolan had to say about it all during a press conference celebrating the movie’s debut in Italy:

“We are looking at doing is developing a videogame based on the world of the film, which has all kinds of ideas that you can’t fit into a feature film. That’s something we’ve been talking about and are looking at doing long term, in a couple of years.”

Hmm. Sounds like to me that someone dove deep into his dreams and planted this idea there to grow slowly and carefully. ::ahem cough:: Cobb ::cough cough:: Right. Well, I don’t want this to happen, and here’s why: it works better as a movie than a videogame. Sure, you can see aspects here and there where it is obvious to do something videogame-like; for instance, the dreams within a dream within a dream all feature unique, starkingly different landscapes, and that’s what videogame developers excel at, creating a snow world and then a fire world and a lush jungle world. Heck, Ariadne’s job would be more or less Little Big Planet, which already exists, so go play that. Then the bulk of action feels like a third-person cover-based shooter, but it could also dabble in Metal Gear Solid stealth. See, there’s just too much to pull from, and no clear direction or idea as to how an Inception videogame should be created. The only glimmer of hope here is that it won’t be a rushed licensed game pushed down the factory line to get it out on time to coincide with the movie’s release date. Something good could be done, but it just doesn’t need to. The movie–and the world(s) within–was more than enough.

Besides, didn’t they already make an Inception videogame?


Being a Devil and True Mortal in Fallout 3 isn’t tricky at all

Well, I did it. I saw the chance, and I took it, and I think I’m somewhat okay with it despite the fact that the way I unlocked True Mortal was most definitely 100% evil. First, let’s ooh and ahh over these two Fallout 3 Achievements I pinged back to back last night:

Devil (20G): Reached Level 30 with Bad Karma

True Mortal (20G): Reached Level 30 with Neutral Karma

Mmm pretty. And here’s how I got them. I leveled my bad karma girl Samantha up to about 3/4s of Level 29 by tossing some Nuka Grenades at Super Mutant Overlords and watching them–from a safe distance–burn. Then she fast-traveled back to Tenpenny Tower wherein Sam rested until about 1:00 am. Using some Stealth Boys (I left my ninja invisibility suit in my room), Samantha crept towards those sleeping in their beds and proceeded to murder each and every one of ’em, snagging a meaty bonus thanks to the Mr. Sandman perk. Then, right before slitting Mr. Burke’s throat as he dreamed about big explosions and punching puppies, I saved my game. Then I had her slice, and bam, Level 30 achieved with bad karma. Reloaded my game to do it again, but this time, for my perk, I picked the one that re-sets your karma to neutral. And that was that. Rather easy, and I’m thankful to not have to grind from Level 20 to Level 30 on my third play of Fallout 3, as that is simpy the longest, hardest part to do.

Speaking of that, I need some help. I used a good karma beard dude named Pauly for my first playthrough in Fallout 3, and a bad karma redheaded woman named Samantha for my second playthrough. Not sure what direction I want to go in for my third. I do know, however, that I want to get Dogmeat as early as I can, as well as focus on either melee weapons or unarmed to get a different outlook on the gameplay. Here’s a male/female version of what I’d like to use stat-wise:


Name: Jimbob Jollywag or Babs or Tyrion
Race: ??? (African American, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic)
Karma: Neutral
S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skills: Strength 7, Perception 5, Endurance 6, Charisma 5, Intelligence 6, Agility 5, Luck 6
Tag skills: Melee Weapons, Repair, Explosives

With this, I’d be focused on whacking people to death with batons and baseball bats, repairing my whacking sticks, and tossing grenades when things get too tough. I’m sure I’ll sneak a few pistol shots in, too, but I don’t want to go down the same small weapons path as before. Not sure what early perks I’d take though. Suggestions?

And I’m definitely open to suggestions for names and/or what a character should look like. Consider this the beginning of a Let’s Play that you’ll never see the rest of!

For help with this mockup as well as a good idea as to how this character would progress, I used the Fallout 3 Character Creator website.