Saturday, November 8, 2008

Nintendo Power Turns 20!

As Nintendo Power is turning 20 this year, thought that I would purchase an issue and see if it still holds up after all this time. It has been at least 5 years since I have bought an issue, so I am approaching this review with a fresh set of eyes.

First, I should explain that 20 years ago Nintendo Power was THE magazine. Every kid at school read it, wanting to know how to get the secret warp zone, or Contra code, or whatever. The magazine frequently would have whole level walkthroughs of games, and often had incredibly helpful cheats and game maps (you have to remember this was before the internet). The main problem with the magazine back then was a complete lack of objectiveness; everything reviewed or in the magazine was great. I understand that Nintendo is trying to sell a product, but saying that every game is great fools legions of fans into purchasing sub-standard fare, and it creates a backlash against the House of Mario.

I am glad to say that the reviews are somewhat more objective, but not by much. While many of the games are rated lower than a 7.0 (this may also be due to the utter dumpster-level quality of most Wii and DS games), you still never shake the feeling that Nintendo Power magazine cannot be a truly objective reviewer. I know that many magazines had been accused of accepting a paycheck for good reviews, but I do feel that other magazines on the market offer the reader a more trustworthy and unbiased opinon of Nintendo's wares.

Walkthroughs are no longer part of the magazine (games are too long now, and we simply can't take away from player's guide sales), so much of the content are articles on upcoming games. In the latest issue we get an indepth look at Chrono Trigger, Animal Crossing Wii, and a bunch of other DS RPGs that I have never heard of. The articles are only on key games and are of course designed to create excitment and salivation for these titles. While there is nothing wrong with promoting an upcoming release, Nintendo Power does not have the autonomy to do it in such a way that isn't unseemly.

There is also a lot of content for Nintendo Fanboys (and Fangirls): retro reviews, articles about Nintendo History, and game developer bios all help fill up the remaining pages in the mag. Some of it is quite interesting, but if you don't have a sense (or simply don't care) about Nintendo history much of these articles will be over your head.

Is Nintendo Power a must buy? Definitely not. No. At $4.99 US and $6.99 Canadian per month you will not get value out of this magazine. It should be noted that magazines are in general too expensive unless you get a subscription, which most of the time is at least 50% off cover price. If you see that Nintendo Power has an article in it that interests you enough to shell out your hard earned cash go for it, but there is a magical new invention called the internet that will let you get most of the content for free and with a more objective opinion.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Collection Update: Ghost Rider Run Complete!

Well thanks to some key last minute bidding on ebay, I now have a Ghost Rider #11 in my possession. This issues marks the final piece of the puzzle needed to complete the entire 81 issue run. I also have Marvel Spotlight #5-12 in the run as well. On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed Ghost Rider. Sure some of the stories are campy and dialogue can be outright laughable at times, but as a reader you are consistently entertained.

A twist on the Faustian tale Ghost Rider is a must read for any Marvel Horror fan, and I would recommend that all of you start picking up some great old issues today. Alternatively, you can run out to your nearest comic shop and buy the Essential Ghost Rider (an inexpensive way to read the first 40 issues or so).

So now I will have to start in earnest on my Marvel Team Up run (I only have 12 of 150 issues) and work diligently on finishing up the complete set of Acts of Vengeance cross-overs. Punisher vs Doombots! That gold Jerry! Gold!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Platform: Nintendo DS
Release Date: October 21st, 2008
Price: $30

I have always enjoyed the horror genre. I enjoy the genuine terror, the physical manifestation of social fears, and the campy nature of the beasts. It is no surprise that I am a big fan of the Castlevania series. The king of "Survival Horror" way before Resident Evil or Silent Hill came along, the Castlevania games provide the difficult, gothic, and bloody challenge that gamers have been craving for more than twenty years.

The newest title to bear the name Castlevania is The Order of Ecclesia (OOE) on the Nintendo DS. Another addition in the Castleroid genre, the game has a lot to live up to. First I need to mention that this game is hard, much harder than the last two entries into the series. You will die in this game and you will die often. Sometimes you will even die fighting some Joe Schmoe enemy in the middle of a level. And bosses? Forget it. You will die 10 to 15 times at some of the more difficult ones.

All that being said the game is not so difficult that you want to shut off your DS and never play again, but you will need to mentally prepare yourself for a litany of continuous death before you complete this opus.

The gameplay tries something new with the glyph system. Weapons are gone, but you can gain magical version of deadly weapons by defeating enemies. It makes for a nice in game collection and has some interesting customization options as well. There is also a great mix of fresh and familiar monsters to defeat.

Those who have played Castlevania II: Simon's Quest will notice a return to multiple locations on a world map. I must confess, I am not much for the multi-locals in a Castlevania game. It should be Dracula's castle, and that is all. It does offer some variety but a few of the locals are linear and boring.

There is a reasonable amount of replay value to OOE with extra modes, difficulties, and side-quests throughout, but I have to say that once I finish a game as hard as this one, I generally put it away for a good long while.

So should you buy it? The game will take at least 10 hours to finish and you should be able to find the game for about $30, so you are good in terms of per hour value, but if you hate a challenge while gaming, you should let this one pass by and rent Dracula instead.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The 11th Doctor, Who?

So David Tennant has announced that he will be stepping down as Doctor Who after the four television specials in 2009. A sad day for many a Whovian as he was one of the best to ever fly the TARDIS. For those of you who have not checked out the current Doctor Who series I highly recommend it.

But now the big question is who will replace Tennant and become the 11th Doctor? Speculation runs abound but I have a few suggestions. First off, the Doctor has to be played by a UK actor. There are a lot of great parts out there for American actors, but the Doctor isn’t one of them. I would suggest that the producers look at the cast of the sadly short lived HBO series Rome, as any of the following actors would make a great 11th Doctor.

1. CiarĂ¡n Hinds (played Julius Caesar).
2. James Purefoy (played Marc Antony).
3. Kevin McKidd (played Lucius Vorenus).
4. David Bamber (played Cicero).

Any of these four would make a great (but very different) 11th Doctor. Will we see a darker, more calculating Doctor? Or will we see a jovial, comical one? And as we get closer and closer to the Doctor’s final regeneration will we see the end of Doctor Who?

As with all great lists my casting suggestions should be discussed and debated thoroughly. Please leave your comments, and let me know who you think would make the best 11th Doctor.