Wednesday, August 14, 2013

DuckTales Remastered, Rewriting History

ducktalesupdatedBack in 1989, Capcom released DuckTales for the NES. Whereas a lot of licensed franchise games exist only as a tie-in to make a quick buck, surprisingly DuckTales was a masterful game, being unique, fun, and challenging. So suffice it to say, DuckTales quickly became a hit.

In fact one of my earliest gaming experiences, aside from Mario, Zelda, and Tetris, took the form of Scrooge McDuck's pogo-ing and golf-swinging adventures. My family never even owned DuckTales, but my sisters and I still rented it over and over, continually trying to master the mysteries of Transylvania and the Moon. Given that the game came out when I was three, it's no surprise that said mastery never occurred (at least for me). However, the game left a lasting impression nonetheless.

That's why I was giddy to hear they were remaking the game for modern consoles.

Of course as my formative years were in the early 90s, DuckTales (and all of "Disney Afternoon"s great shows) had a large impact on me as well. I remember always wanting to keep up to date with the adventures of Scrooge and his grandnephews. This just goes to say that DuckTales, for someone my age, hits all the proper notes of nostalgia and childhood to forever occupy that warm, cuddly place in the heart where such things go.

That's why I've made sure to pay attention to the details surrounding the game.

And then, a few weeks back I was at San Diego Comic-Con and attended a panel held by Capcom and WayForward where they talked about making DuckTales Remastered itself. They went into their techniques for trying to be as faithful to the original game as possible while mixing the art up to look more like the TV show itself. I was really impressed at the lengths they went through, including an interesting technique of playing both the original and their remake side-by-side to ensure the controls are as 1-to-1 as possible.

That's why I purchased the game.

And now, lo and behold, I've bought it and played it, and you get to hear all about my thoughts on the subject.

The main thought: Woo-hoo!

So this game hits me in the feels. I didn't realize until now how much I actually remember of the original game. The remixed chiptunes themselves call up some deep memories and make me channel my inner 5-year-old. The only level I've finished so far is Transylvania, but I look forward to attacking the others one at a time. One of the best features of the original game is that, a la MegaMan, you can hit up the levels in any order you'd like. I am loving the voice acting as well, and am impressed by how many of the original actors from the TV show returned (the only ones that were replaced are sadly no longer with us). And the levels look so awesome and feel the same.

The one thing that caught me off guard: when I started playing it the controls actually felt really weird and slightly off. I realized it was that I had "Hard Pogo" turned off. Basically, the old NES way of pogo-ing was considered too hard (good ol' NES games!). As such, they replaced it with a simpler mechanism. Well, once I turned "Hard Pogo" on, my hands knew exactly what to do. Surprising how long muscle memory can survive! It's amazing how easily I slipped back into the feel of the game, and how good of a job WayForward did at emulating the original moves.

If you have any nostalgia for the TV show or video game, you won't  go wrong with this game. Even if you never saw the show or played the game, it's an amazing platformer with a unique play-style that's worth a go. And if you have any youngin's around, get them this game and make them watch the show, as it surpasses most kids shows today by a mile.

Meanwhile, I hope to plunder the game of every last treasure as soon as I can get back at it!


P.S. Apparently Capcom sent out the original DuckTales on golden cartridges as a promotional package. Shut up and take my money!

P.P.S. If you'd find it interesting, Capcom and WayForward posted a video about their strategy for updating the art without leaving behind the feel of the original. A lot of this was in their presentation at San Diego Comic-Con (and other conventions as well), and it's a good take on what lengths people go through when they've fully invested themselves in making something be the best experience they can.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Re: Geek Week - Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

...continued from...

And for my final post celebrating Geek Week, how about this delight from PBS in the early 90's? I'm betting that you're already humming the theme just from reading the title of this post!

There's been rumblings that it'd return, and while it's not new episodes, I'll happily take a rebroadcast. This show had such a profound affect on me as a child, making me the trivia buff I am today. After all, you never know when a small piece of information about South America will be all that stands between you and the capture of a master thief!

I'll leave you with this. Sadly, while Lynne Thigpen as passed away, I'll always fondly remember her as The Chief.

And yes, this is from one of the video games, but she's The Chief no matter what medium!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Re: Geek Week - Square One TV

...continued from...

I decided to celebrate Geek Week myself by highlighting a couple of my favorite (and very geeky) PBS shows as a kid. To start, how about Square One TV!

It was hilarious and did a great job at making education fun for all ages, like this song for negative numbers:

Or how about it's own (mildly scary) version of Pac-Man:

And don't forget Mathnet, the gritty world of crime colored by math:

I can only hope that when I have kids there are shows like this on TV.

Monday, August 5, 2013

All Things Geek on YouTube

A few months ago YouTube tested the waters with Comedy Week, featuring the comedy talents of notable YouTube channels. Needless to say, it was a hilarious romp that kept the laughs coming (one of my favorites: What kind of Asian are you?). How do you follow this up? With a week dedicated to geeks, of course! It began yesterday and isn't exactly a secret (as those who found the easter egg would know), but I'm slow to post as always.

And YouTube's pulled out all the stops it seems. They have each day set aside for different geeky celebrations. For instance, yesterday was "Blockbuster Sunday", today is "Global Geekery Monday", followed up all week long with the likes of "Braniac Tuesday", "Super Wednesday", "Gaming Thursday", and "Fan Friday". Meanwhile, this leaves Saturday to be a full day of the best of the best.

Highlights so far:

  • Blockbusters hosted by Red Dwarf's Kryten:

  • The latest Doctor Who news:

  • Top animations from around the world:

There are other treats too such as being able to test your geekery, and it's been reported that many other easter eggs are on their way. After all the hectic geeking out at San Diego Comic Con a few weeks ago, it's nice to slide right back into full geekitude with this. While I don't fully know where the week will take us, I look forward to sitting back and enjoying the ride.

You can stay up to date with all week long at YouTube's own channel.

Meanwhile I've decided to post a couple extra small, nostalgiac, geekish posts this week (with videos!), so stay tuned. And if you have any geekery you'd like to share with me, please do! I'm always on the lookout for something new.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chromecast: Google + TV = Win

chromecast device

Full disclosure: I'm a Google employee. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'm going to be late to the game and talk about the new Chromecast.

So, what if I told you that you no longer have to buy a Smart TV to have the capabilities of a SmartTV? You'd say "Well duh! We've all already heard about the Chromecast! It launched a week ago!" And you'd get angry at me for being behind the times and whatnot. And I wouldn't listen because that's not something I do.

But think about it: SmartTVs have been around for a while now but they still aren't supplying good user experiences. All of the last generation of game consoles had some SmartTV features and they've been around since 2006-2007. Samsung introduced its initial line of "Internet TV"s in 2007. AppleTV is originally from 2007 as well. Heck, TiVo's existed since 1999 and even the GoogleTV itself has had 3 years to get better. Given all this time and all these people vying for the market, you'd hope something really wonderful would come out of it. But nothing so far has been all that great of an experience. Yes, they're usable, but they're not fun to use.

Let's talk about the Google TV. I think it was a good thing, but I feel it wasn't taken far enough. It was expensive and bulky, yet it still managed to be slow and clunky. Setting it up took forever: sign in, adjust for overscan, figure out the audio, yada yada yada. The users had to navigate it with a keyboard and touchpad mouse, either using a decent Logitech keyboard or the dreaded Sony label maker. But it was still a good thing; it was Google trying out the TV space, making mistakes and learning.

And look at that, now we have the Chromecast! Instead yet-another-set-top-box or TV itself, here's a small and simple dongle usable with any TV with HDMI. How do you set it up? Just quickly tell it your wifi network and bam, you're ready. How do you interact with it? Use your phone, tablet, or desktop, a.k.a. things you know how to use. I got mine in the mail the other day and it was ready to go within literally two minutes after plugging it up. And it's cheap! Just $35! This will sell insanely well at the holidays assuming the supply will hold out.

I've had plenty of time to play with it and there's something great about quickly finding some video on YouTube or Netflix and instantly watching it on your TV. While you're watching YouTube, find some more and queue them up. Or feel like just working around the house and need a soundtrack? Send music to the TV instead.

But wait, there's more! Google's already published the Cast SDK used to get the content to the TV, so now anyone can make their website or app work with it. Imagine playing Scrabble where the TV's the board and your phone/tablet is your tile rack. Or how about some asymmetrical gameplay like the Wii U has with its gamepad? Or something simpler like a killer photo share app or getting webcam to work with it as well and use Google Hangouts or Skype with your TV? There are so many awesome possibilities. I, for one, welcome our new multi-device experience overlords.

Long story short? Get  a Chromecast, or find a friend with one and play with theirs. You're gonna like the way it works, I guarantee it.