Archive for the 'video games' Category

19
Jun
08

A note for those looking for Wii Fit

In about mid-May, I decided to buy Wii Fit for my wife for her birthday.  She had indicated that she wanted to be pretty aggressive in trying to lose her baby weight and from what I had read about it, Wii Fit seemed like a good way to kick start and keep track of weight loss progress, so it seemed like a good, um, fit.  However, I knew it would be tough to find.  I thought about going out to try to find it on launch day (May 21st), but that was my daughter’s birthday and we had a whole day of activities planned.  The following day it was sold out everywhere.  Furthermore, the more I read about it online, the more it became clear that it wouldn’t be easy to find.  I had looked on Walmart.com and used their inventory reports to see availability at brick and mortar stores and while they sometimes reported that they had units in stock, when I called, they inevitably told me that they had just sold their last unit.  Plus, the nearest Walmart is not very near, so this wasn’t a great solution.

On Monday, I decided to step up my game.  I did some more digging online and I found the following two sites: WiiTracker.com and WiiAlerts.com.  These two sites have scripts that trawl all the main retailers and can report their inventory status nearly in real time.  WiiAlerts allows you to enter your cellphone number so that when a product is in stock, you can get a text message telling you so.  It paid off for me this morning.  I got a message shortly after I got up telling me that Circuit City had Wii Fit in stock.  I quickly ordered it and about half an hour ago, I got a shipping confirmation from them.  So, if you’re interested in getting Wii Fit without having to pay extra on sites like eBay or Craigslist, check out the two sites above.  They worked for me!  (Queue cheesy smile and thumbs-up gesture.)

01
Mar
08

I’ve still got it, part 2

This is a follow-up to a post from July 8th of last year. In that post, I documented how I had downloaded Super Mario Bros. (SMB) for the Wii Virtual Console and then proceeded to beat it in a little over an hour. Well, sometime within the last 2 weeks I downloaded SMB 2 (not the real/Japanese version of SMB 2) and on Tuesday I beat the game in almost exactly 2 hours without using any of the warp zones. I mentioned in my post about the original SMB that I was suprised by how many little tricks and things I remembered given that I probably hadn’t played the game in 10 years or more. The same was true for SMB 2 – I remembered the locations of a lot of the power-up mushrooms (many of which are not near the potion) and some other tricks.

In any case, this leaves SMB 3 as the only remaining SMB game from the original Nintendo that I haven’t beaten on the Virtual Console. I had a crazy idea this morning – I should try to beat all the NES-era SMB games back-to-back-to-back in one sitting and see how long it takes me. I think that SMB 3 would take a lot longer than the other two. It took me about an hour to beat SMB 1, 2 hours to beat SMB 2, but I’m guessing that it would take me more than 3 hours to beat SMB 3. I guess it would depend on whether I tried to beat every level or if I skipped ones that weren’t necessary to get to the castle in each world. We’ll see. This idea may have to wait for a while, since this type of project would definitely not help me to get my thesis written.

15
Feb
08

Right now…

… I wish I owned Guitar Hero. After a long day at work and my viewing of Air Guitar Nation last weekend, I am primed for some 5-button guitar action.

30
Oct
07

Wii Heads-up

If any of you are looking for a Wii, be advised that they will reportedly be available on Amazon at 10AM Pacific time tomorrow (Oct. 31st). Now is probably the time to try to get one, since demand will only get worse between now and Christmas and Nintendo has already stated that they expect to not be able to meet holiday demand.

09
Oct
07

Another year begins

Monday was my 29th birthday.  I may have mentioned this last year, but I’m definitely getting outside the realm of plausible deniability when it comes to my status as an adult.  Actually, I think this year’s birthday was less traumatic than last year because I’ve become more comfortable with being an adult and I’ve started to appreciate some of the perks.  Maybe it was also made better by a heartfelt birthday wish I got from a friend:

brain_age_birthday

Ok, actually, that’s just the greeting I got when I started playing Brain Age for the Nintendo DS – a birthday gift from my wife.  It didn’t help me feel any better about my birthday when it turned out that my “brain age” was calculated to be 66, based on my wretched performance on some of the tests.  My only solace is that when I last played Wii Sports, my “fitness age” was in the low 20’s.  If my body is so much fitter than my brain, maybe being a graduate student isn’t a great occupation for me…

As the final present of my birthday, I was glad to see the Yankees lose to the Cleveland Indians, ending the Yankees’ hopes of advancing in the postseason.  I guess I just have a real problem with fans and organizations that have such a pervasive sense of entitlement.  Of course, they probably don’t see it so much as a sense of entitlement, but rather as a sense of getting their money’s worth.  Either way, it’s satisfying to see Goliath fall.  Nice job, Cleveland.

07
Oct
07

The Real Super Mario Bros. 2

Last week Nintendo released a couple of games for the Wii Virtual Console that had been only available in Japan when the games were originally released. Among these Japan-only titles is what could be called the “real” Super Mario Bros. 2. According to the Wikipedia pages on the subject, Nintendo decided not to release the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 in the US because it was extremely difficult and very similar to the original. Rather, Nintendo took a different game they had been developing for release in Japan, replaced its characters with Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach, and released that game as Super Mario Bros. 2 in the US. This was a bit of a controversial move on Nintendo’s part and the US version of Super Mario Bros. 2 has never been fully accepted by fans as the proper successor to Super Mario Bros.

mariobros2_title.jpg

The release of the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Wii Virtual Console makes it easy for enthusiasts to satisfy their curiosity and see what the controversy was all about. I downloaded the game today and, as a result of an hour or two of playing, I can verify that it is both very similar to the original Super Mario Bros. and very difficult. As an example of the difficulty, let me present an exhibit:

warp_zone.jpg

Observe that I am in world 3-1 yet I am being presented with a warp to level 1. I went down a pipe, came back up a pipe, proceeded to the right and found myself in this situation with no escape except for the little hole on the left there. So, my choice was to either warp back to world 1-1 or die and start level 3-1 again. I wasn’t too pleased.

As an example of the similarity, take a look at the screen shots. Or, recall the bug in Super Mario Bros. that allowed Mario to climb up walls by sandwiching himself between a column of bricks and the left side of the screen and then jumping repeatedly. That bug is also present in Super Mario Bros. 2.

Despite its similarity to the original Super Mario Bros. I think this is a must-buy for Nintendo enthusiasts. It occupies a special and interesting place in Nintendo history and it’s a fun and challenging game. If you have a Wii, you can pick it up from the Wii Shop Channel for 600 points ($6). If you don’t have a Wii, you can convince your Wii-owning friend to buy it.

 

08
Jul
07

I’ve still got it

Today I downloaded Super Mario Bros. for the Wii Virtual Console.  I played through the entire game (except 4-3 and 4-4: I warped from 4-2 to 5-1) and it took me just over an hour to beat it.  I was surprised by how much I remembered and how quickly it all came back to me.  Maybe I’ll download Super Mario 2 tomorrow and beat it as well.

11
Feb
07

Excite Truck is, well, exciting

Heather got me the Wii game Excite Truck for Valentine’s Day, but gave it to me yesterday.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Excite Truck, it is an off-road racing game with trucks.  It also involves a lot of flying through the air since the courses include of a lot of (huge) jumps.  Anyway, Heather gave me the game early because she was concerned that, if she waited until Wednesday to give it to me, I would stay up late playing it and would be exhausted the next day.  Giving it to me yesterday gave me plenty of time to play it before the work week started.  This was a smart move because I played it a lot yesterday.  According to the playing summary on the Wii messageboard, I played it for more than 4 hours.  I finally stopped playing at around 11:45pm, or so.  Yesterday’s experience taught me that I need to allow a long buffer period between stopping playing and going to bed.  This is because I slept very poorly last night.  All night I was plagued by dreams of trucks going off huge jumps and flying through the air.  It was similar to the experience I have had after playing lots of Tetris – an unending stream of Tetris pieces cascading down in my mind.  However, Tetris pieces are at least mildly soporific – not unlike counting sheep, I suppose;  trucks flying off huge jumps, not so much.  So, a warning to anyone considering buying the game: it lives up to its name, so don’t try to play it right before going to bed.

21
Jan
07

A Wii post everyone can enjoy

This video comes courtesy of Ben Kuchera at Arstechnica.com, which is a website I frequent with, well, great frequency. It’s basically a poorly shot video of someone getting a hole-in-one while playing golf in the German version of Wii Sports. The German expression for “hole in one” is “das Einlochen mit dem ersten Schlag” (courtesy of dict.leo.org), which doesn’t exactly have a great ring to it (even for German speakers). So, the game developers used a different term to note the achivement, which you’ll see at the end of the video.

And now, to the video.

Finally, after watching the video, to ease your bewilderment, a translation.

16
Jan
07

Hacking the Wavebird

My apologies to my readers who are not interested in the Nintendo Wii – this is another Wii-related post.

Anyway, as you may or may not know, the Wii is backward compatible with the Nintendo GameCube. In fact, this backward compatibility is real, not emulated. So, when you start playing a GameCube game, the system stops functioning as a Wii and no longer responds to the Wii Remotes. However, you can still play your GameCube games wirelessly if you buy the wireless “Wavebird” controller originally released for the GameCube. This consists of a controller with a built-in transmitter and a separate receiver that plugs into a GameCube controller port on the Wii. Unfortunately, this is the only wireless controller for the GameCube – all the others require you to plug the controller directly into the controller ports. However, yesterday it occurred to me that I might be able to hack the Wavebird so that I could plug other wired controllers into it and use the transmitter in it in order to use other controllers wirelessly as well. This would be particularly useful in that it would allow me to use my “DK Bongo” controllers from the comfort of my couch.

Here’s how it would work:
I assume that, internally, the Wavebird contains a GameCube controller like any wired GameCube controller. However, instead of the controller output going directly to the console over a wire, it is connected to the wireless transmitter. It seems to me that if I can open the controller up and splice a switch and a female controller port in between the controller and the wireless transmitter, I could make it possible to plug other wired controllers into the Wavebird, effectively making them wireless.

There are a couple of obstacles to this plan right now.
First, in order to confirm my assumption about the internal wiring of the Wavebird, I need to open it up. This requires a small tri-wing screwdriver with a long shaft. While I could head over to Microcenter and pick up a set of specialty screwdriver bits, actual tri-wing screwdrivers are tough to come by. Unfortunately, in this case, a bit set won’t work because some of the screws are recessed in holes that are both deep and narrow – too narrow to accommodate bits from a bit set. Does anyone have any suggestions on where I could buy individual tri-wing screwdrivers?

Second, providing that my assumptions about the internal wiring of the controller are correct, I need to find a source of female GameCube controller ports. I guess I could try to buy broken GameCube consoles or something but I’d like to keep my costs as low as possible.

If it turns out that the hack is easy and the necessary parts are plentiful and cheap, I might consider selling these things. There are a number of non-standard controllers for the GameCube, like the “DK Bongos” and the “Action Pad”, so people who are interested in using these controllers but have their home entertainment centers set up in a way that precludes plugging them directly into the built-in controller ports would probably be interested in a product that enables them to use these controllers wirelessly. This seems like an elegant solution because it also mimics the model used in the Wii Remote which offers the ability to plug peripheral controllers into the main wireless controller.

If anyone has any comments or suggestions, please pass them along. Also, it’s very possible (even probable) that someone has already done this hack. If you know of such a hack, please pass along the link. I won’t be offended.




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