3D Block

There are all kinds of gamers out there. Even though I own newer consoles and play new games, I think I’d still have to classify myself as a classic gamer.

I don’t really know why old games facinate me. I’m sure that nostagia has a lot to do with some of them since they’re what I grew up with. However, I am equally (if not more) excited to play old games that I never had or played growing up. Maybe it’s still nostalgia; I’m six years old again and somehow got a new game I’ve never played before.

A lot of the games I played over and over again as a kid was becuase I only owned so many games. There was a small selection of rentable games across the street in the video store that was owned by a guy, his pug, and an iguana. Most of my friends didn’t own game systems and some even had parents who thought that video games were bad for you or the work of the devil. New games came from birthday and Christmas (or money from birthday and Christmas). Even then, it was usually a one game deal.

This was also pre-internet, so the only way to figure out all of the ins and outs of the games was to replay them over and over. In some cases you could find the right magazine. I was never allowed to call the 900 number.

I can’t be six years old again and I can’t give games to my past self, but I can now play any classic game ever made. It’s enjoyable even if I don’t have as much time and it’s a little less exciting. I don’t know how kids today ever leave their room.

The internet might tell us which games are worth playing, but sometimes I get the most satisfaction out of the weirdest, glitchiest, bad games there are. I know I’m not the only one with this facination. If you look up The Angry Video Game Nerd, you’ll find someone else who is a glutton for punishment. Most people probably watch and say, “Wow, I now know not to touch Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde for the Nintendo with a ten foot pole.” Me? Unless The AVGN covers the game completely, title screen to finish, I’m just tempted to check the game out myself.

This post about a game I tried out recently for the Nintendo called 3D Block. From the title I imagined the game is both 3D, or as 3D as NES games can be, and has something to do with blocks. Though they were being pretty literal with the title, I suspected this game didn’t just contain a single block.

If the title was literal, the title screen was… no, not figurative. It was somewhere in left field, or maybe more like Mars. I imagine some guy with a handlebar mustache saying, “3D Block? That won’t sell. You want to know what sells? Sex. That’s what sells.” That’s the only explanation I can come up with for the random shadow of a pin-up model: pointy nipple, high heels, and all.

Oh. There are a few blocks there under her. I guess that makes it relevant.

I don’t know why this guy has a handlebar mustache, but I don’t need a reason. This is my imagination.


You begin by pressing start and then get a selection screen where you can pick the stage and speed you start off with. I left it alone since I didn’t even know what I was playing yet. The game starts and I immediately say, “3D Tetris”, because that’s what it is.

I generally love puzzle games, but I never actually got into any versions of 3D Tetris I played. Puzzle games are fun when you get a smooth rhythm going, but you never do with this game. It’s not that it’s a bad version of 3D Tetris, I feel that way about every 3D Tetris game I’ve played. You’ve got an exponential amount of space, blocks, and block angles to deals with. It’s just too much.


A and B rotate the blocks, one controlling each axis. Start makes the piece drop if you get it in place and want to speed up its decent. The side tells you what’s next as well as what row you’re on.

Surprisingly, I actually can figure out where to put the blocks and get them there. For this reason, I already like it better than the version for the Virtual Boy. Well, okay, that’s probably not surprising.

It constantly feels like there isn’t really enough time even when the blocks ares’t moving that fast. You’re rotating in two directions and have to position up, down, left and right. After the lowest level and lowest speed setting, it all goes downhill fast.

That being said, I’m a bit confused on that point. In Tetris, the blocks move down faster every stage. At first this game does that, but then in goes slower again in the next stage. Then you notice a new kind of block. Then it gets faster again. I guess they were trying to make it more interesting or less hard. I just think that’s confusing that stage 3 is easier than 2.

You can see through the block you’re putting down which helps. The grid is clearly marked. The height of the rows is indicated by what color each square is.

The music is bad. Without playing much, it’s a forgettable cute carnival merry-go-round like tune. After not too long, it’s like one of those really evil children’s toys that makes irritating noises and music.

It takes awhile, but eventually you complete a row. In Tetris you have a single line across the screen, where here you have a whole floor. You can see why game play is a slow crawl compared to Tertris. You fill in the last bit and- the screen goes away. Where did it go? The it’s back and the row is gone. I’m not really sure why the whole screen has to go away for a row to disappear. Maybe that row of blocks is embarrassed to be associated with the skimpy shadow on the title screen and wants to make a quick get away. Maybe that row of blocks is sneaking away to go under that same scantily clad shadow like it depicts in the title screen. “Ohhh yeah! Blocks!” I have no idea.

Worst Controller, The Follow Up

Some of you think I unfairly called the Nintendo 64 the worst controller, and I do confess that there are worse game console controllers out there. It was really more of the biggest controller let down because, let’s face it, the Super Nintendo controller was so on the money, but Nintendo took a sad step back.

Here’s the earlier post in case you missed it.

If you glance down into the annals of console and computer gaming history, you will find far worse controllers. You will find controllers that make the word control a joke. You will see controllers that take the word control completely out so all you’re left with is ler.

And what’s a ler?

So here is the confession and then some of my opinions on some of the other worst controllers… There are a lot out there, especially for the early systems that no one has ever heard of. I’m going to try to cover a few you might have heard of.

 


Power Glove

Nintendo

Wow! So I’m going to be able to punch in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out? No? Well… I’ll be able to make Mario jump with my fingers! No? Well, then wtf is the point of this? We still don’t know. What we do know is that it seemed cooler in The Wizard, which was basically a long Nintendo commercial for it. Even today, you can find the power glove make appearances in episodes at purepwnage.com. It gets points for nostalgia badness.


Wiimote Batarang

Wii

I just said that the Wiimote and Nunchuck made the best controller ever. Now I’m going to say there are some things that the Wiimote just should not be combined with. The two obvious questions are: 1) Why? and 2) What? I honestly don’t have the best answers for either. Apparently it makes the Wiimote more Batmanesque. You put the Wiimote in the piece of plastic and… voi la! It becomes a Wiimote in a Batman-like piece of plastic. I know it sounds like it would give the Wiimote boomerange qualities, but please, don’t throw it (at least not with the Wiimote inside- otherwise, throw it in the trash).


Atari 2600 Joy Stick

Atari 2600

Oh, no you didn’t go there. Oh, yes I did. This was my first gaming system, so I hesitate to bad mouth it, and yet I must. I still have my Atari 2600, but not with original joysticks (bought some from Strange Maine in Portland, ME). That’s my main point. They broke. The sticks would often come off leaving no stick and no joy behind either. Sometimes just the casing on the stick came off leaving this narrow white plastic thing that would be near impossible to use before it snapped off later.


Xbox Original Controller

Xbox

As I admitted in my last controller post, I have small hands. Still, there is no excuse for a controller specifically made for large apes with ninja dexterity only. What about the small apes with ninja dexterity, and more importantly, what about me? Make everything really rounded and spaced far apart so it looks like I’m trying to hold a fish when I’m trying to game. Why are the analog controllers located in different places on each side? I know that symmetry is bad composition, but this is a controller, not a painting class. And why are there a couple of tiny buttons with the big regular buttons? Did they take notes from the N64 controller? While we’re on that thread, expansion packs are bad and pointless. If it needs to exist for the console, put it in the console, or make it in the controller.


Sega Saturn 3d Controller

Sega Saturn

Not that anyone had a Sega Saturn anyways, but OMG. I complained about the big, awkwardness of both “>N64 controllers and Xbox‘s, but really, this is so far beyond either of those. Thank whatever deities that this isn’t what came with the system, especially since it didn’t work with all Saturn games. Yes, I’m serious. You had to have the privilege in have this controller supported for your game.


Gamecube Controller

Gamecube

On one hand, it’s not as bad as the N64. On the other hand, you’d think Nintendo would learn from its mistakes. Be thankful they got rid of the phallic symbol in the middle but, they added some weird, odd shaped buttons of different sizes and colors. How hard can we make it for you to use a button? Try using a controller with elongated, rounded rectangles and you’ll find out.

I’m not saying there aren’t other bad controllers out there. As long as video games exist, there will be poor designs implemented to control them. I also should say that I think that even my favorite controllers could be better. I won’t be completely satisfied until virtual reality anyways! And even then… let’s face it. There’s always room for improvement.

Worst Controller, Best Controller

I can still remember when the Nintendo64 came out after so many Nintendo Power magazines of anticipation. What was once code named the “Ultra 64”, which I though was a cooler title at the time, was finally released. Sure, it was supposed to be a CD system, and turns out it was cartridges instead. Being a steadfast Nintendo loyalist I didn’t question this.

I didn’t question this until I played the system.

Worst controller ever.

I felt so completely let down. All of my willpower tried to enjoy the Nintendo 64 the way I did my Nintendos before it. Alas, I found myself wanting to go home to play some Super Nintendo or a PC game.

I have small hands, so I rationalized several minutes of trying to figure out the best way to get my hands around the damned thing to control Mario by blaming myself at first. How many buttons are on this thing? Do most of these even do anything?

Controllers should be comfortable. I did end up playing 007 and Super Smash Brothers with people who had the system and my fingers and palms ached more than the blisters from playing Street Fighter II with the Sega Genesis controllers (Why did they put a ridge around the buttons? No, I don’t know either.). The controller was too wide, had too many buttons, for no reason had some like phallic symbol in the middle. Don’t get me started on the d-pad and analogue. Making characters move has been effortless since the invention of the joystick. It’s pretty hard to screw that one up and, yeah, they managed it.

Controllers should be intuitive. There are buttons on that thing that I never bothered to reach and I’m not sure what were for. I don’t think the game designers knew either.

I know I’m not the only one who was left feeling unsatisfied with this system. Many people put them on the shelf or tried to sell in to get a Playstation.

Me? I got a Playstation. Their controllers were essentially a next generation version of the Super Nintendo controllers. Also it sported the disc media that Nintendo had promised and then backed out on. Nintendo so completely dropped the ball, I never thought to look back to see if they were throwing it again.

Best Controller Ever

Years later, there is a Nintendo product sitting next to my old, old SNES. This next generation of consoles has a lot to offer. Not one of the systems sucks… well, the PS3 is too expensive for anyone’s tastes, but people would probably say it was a good system if that weren’t the case (likely doomed to be clumped with the Atari Jagar, 3D0, and Dream Cast before it- all good systems, but overpriced- but since it’s a blue ray player too, maybe not). The Xbox360 is probably the first true online gaming console to even take a chip off of what PCs have been doing for years, and its hardware is nothing short of sweet (with the exception of a very noisy fan and lower end version).

And the Wii is just something else.

The original Nintendo was revolutionary not because of its hardware. Few people realize this, but it was actually a step back for its time. Look at any game that was a port to the system (and most of them were) and you’d see what I mean. It was graphically inferior to an Atari or Commodore of the times. And yet, it stole the heart of the average household.

The Wii is in that category, but it’s more than that. The Wii came out at a time when it seemed like the only place for console technology left to go was to become more similar to a mini, cheap, gaming PC.

Nintendo proved us wrong.

The Wii reminds me of another console that Nintendo tried and bombed. Did anyone else have a Virtual Boy? I think my parents threw ours away (after buying it for us for $30 with several games). It was awkward, clunky, very red (no color), and kind of dangerous to the eyes and body. Video games do not make me dizzy the slightest, but this thing made me light headed and wobbly after playing. The warning in the manual said not to play for more than fifteen minutes at a time. I think that’s why it mysteriously disappeared into the closet and then from the closet to video game heaven. By then, we had kind of stopped using it anyways. It was like a novelty item, extremely cool for a limited time only.

The reason why the Wii reminds me of this is because that’s the attitude I cautiously approached the system with. I played it over people’s houses many times before I was convinced it was more than a novelty item. I’m still a bit worried that game developers will fail to step up and make games for it that take advantage of the power of rethinking video games it’s put in my hand and head.

I admit, I gawked at the price of the Wiimote and Nunchuck as much as I gawked at their names. Since then, I keep finding out what else this controller can do.

It’s just a controller… or maybe it’s a ball of potential masked as a controller.

Look at me, I’m a Nintendo controller. I’m a laser pointer. I’m a sword. Woah, it just talked, is there a speaker in there? Pull my trigger. Punch me out like I’m brass knuckles. Put me up to your ear, twist me to control this, bump into you, and perform the most fluid fighting moves ever.

This controller is the most intuitive yet complex thing of it’s class I’ve ever seen, a true marvel of design. The intuitiveness carries over to the point where one game and another have very different controls and uses for it, yet I can pick them up in a few minutes. And the ways I’m controlling and number of controls are learning I’m realizing are more than for any other console I have in the past. Without thinking I’m switching the thing around, and using all of the buttons. There are 9 buttons (including the home button) and 2 d-pads. It doesn’t feel like it when I use them all. I was surprised when I counted.

This is what they were maybe thinking about when they made the Nintendo 64 controller, arguably the worst controller of all time.

And here it is my beam katana, my master sword, my light saber, my platforming controller, my boxing gloves, my steering wheel, my phone, and whatever else the game designers will think up.

The phone was the latest ‘woah didn’t see that coming’. But, with the built in speaker, makes sense. Way to add that much more game flavor.

You taste that? That’s a win.

Dramatics & Nightmares

Blaster Master NESThis post is brought to you by Blaster Master for the NES. When your pet frog jumps down a hole, you follow like Alice in Wonderland. The only difference, besides the frog, is that Alice didn’t get a tank at the bottom of the hole. :)

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, or know me personally, you know that I am single and pretty stubborn about staying that way in recent times. Regardless, this doesn’t make me completely removed or foreign to the dramatics that forever follow on the heels of lovers, loves, more than friends, and even WTFs.

When that thing clenches your heart and you are pulled into what seems like an endlessly complicated swirl of events, you have to gain perspective. The only way to do that is spread your broken hearted cheer, because the subject (you) is always too close to the situation.


People who may be pretty bad at their own interpersonal relationships have surprising perspective when you go to them with the timeless situations that have transcended time and culture. I propose that the phrase ‘love is blind’ doesn’t just mean you don’t pick who you fall for, it also means that it blinds you to what is actually happening around you. You just don’t know what you can do to avoid as much heart ache and embarrassment as possible.

To anyone who is in this situation currently and hasn’t found that poor friend’s ear to snag I offer the following bits of perspective in no particular order…

1. You can’t logically argue your way into continuing a relationship with someone. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t tried. Even if you can stave off the inevitable for a bit longer, let’s consider that it took a lot for your other half to come to you with a proposal of breaking things off. I’ve known people to continue relationships they want out of for weeks, months, even years without letting the other half know about it. They may or may not have thought about it with your perspective, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever bond that kept you together can’t be repaired with Elmer’s glue. If they’ve considered it enough to say “We need to have a talk.” then it’s not worth trying to argue. They’ve found enough reasons, even if they won’t share those reasons, and even if they’re stupid. The issue is not yours and the battle is not yours to fight. Short of mind control, you can’t change how a person feels. You can’t argue a person out of the way they feel. If they are going to change their mind and come back, they have to do it on their own.

2. Only good things is a fairy tale. It’s not always this bad is a sign to get out. We’re talking about the L word, so I’m going to have to use some cliches. It has to rain sometimes, and when it rains, it pours. Every person has their rough spots. Every pairing doubly so. A better litmus test is how you deal with those moments when they come, and yes, how often they come. People resist change, including cutting off something that is no longer mostly a good thing. If you’re defending to your friends, “She/He/It’s not always this bad.” then it’s a sure sign you’re who I’m talking about. On the flip side, you can’t run at the first sign of bad weather. Rough spots can bring people closer as well, like all of this rain we’ve had this week has made things begin to bloom. (Okay, now I’m making myself gag.)

3. It’s never you. If you’re being broke up with, of course it isn’t you. The other person has identified reasons, be they irreparable problems with the relationship, or problems with their own feelings and position. At a stretch, we could say, it’s both of you. But really, it’s the one breaking up that can’t see you together beyond the present. The one breaking up is done trying. I’m not saying they are the bad guy necessarily, but I am saying that you can’t go down the path of “I should have”s. One more kiss or one less disagreement isn’t going to change a pattern, or like I said above, someone else’s feelings.

4. Chances are, they don’t know themselves. Of course we’re going to ask why. Of course you will be given reasons. But, really, if the reasons behind why we fall for people is so cryptic, organic, strange, and unexpected, would you expect no less from the loss of these feelings and the break up?

5. Life goes on. The worst, least helpful, most cruel cliche I’ve saved for last. As much pain as you get yourself into, it will fade from the forefront of your mind over time. You will find someone else better than the last, especially when your head clears and you realize they weren’t so amazing and you weren’t quite right for eachother anyways. More importantly, you can exist and thrive without that other person in your life and you will. What made you attractive to that person in the first place is how awesome and vibrant you are on your own.

None of these things I’m saying will get you through that darkness following a bad ending. That is really something you need to push through on your own, but it doesn’t help to be surrounded by sympathetic ears and distracting personalities.

So this dramatic scene passes, and the nightmare ends, and the world keeps spinning into a new day bringing with it another slew of possibilities.