Monday, December 24, 2007

NiGHTS Journey of Dreams: My Childhood in a Box

Nine years ago all I wanted for my sixteenth birthday was a SEGA Saturn and a copy of the Sonic Team's newly released title NiGHTS Into Dreams. Back then I kept up to date on the latest news in the console wars. A hardcore Sonic fan since age ten, I was on SEGA's side and never gave up. I started buying gaming magazines and learned about NiGHTS' story long before the game hit the shelf. I begged my parents for months and they repeatedly said "We're not buying you any more game systems!" Still, when I opened my birthday present there it was!

The first time I played NiGHTS Into Dreams I saw the starlit city and was immediately entranced. For me it was the character design of NiGHTS and Reala, and the background of the beautiful city that inspired me. I fell in love with the characters and the very kid friendly inspiring storyline.

We waited a long time for it, but now we finally have our sequel, NiGHTS Journey of Dreams. This is a game made for the fans of the first game. To be honest I love it, but I am bias and I'm not sure that it will generate new fans. After finishing the game and seeing all four versions of the ending, there are a few things I would have like to have seen done differently, but overall I am very pleased:

NiGHTS - His voice stunned me at first. I didn't expect it to be deep or anything, but I think it's a hair too feminine. Maybe it's the hint of an English accent but it threw me. I'm getting use to it. He has a very nice bad-ass moment in the complete endings where he throws his persona mask, a symbol of his loyalty to Wiseman, to the ground and challenges Reala!

Reala - For nine years I have been saying "Ray-la" not "Re-al-la" it's a hard habit to break, but I'm working on it. They did a 100% awesome job on his design, voice and attitude. He is bad-ass and I love it when he grabs NiGHTS by the collar and jacks him against the dream gate door. He plays marvelous mind games with Helen and Will which brings up the fact that NiGHTS is a nighmaren, Reala's sibling, created by Wiseman. This in game revelation causes a nice level of drama and conflict. I wish there would have been more one on one battles with Reala through out the game.

Helen & Will - Helen and Will are both adorable. I love Helen's English accent, it suits her very well. Will kinda reminds me of Tails. They both have compelling complicated realistic childhood social and personal issues that they have to overcome.

Other Nightmaren - I am one of the many fans who is sad that Jackal didn't return, still there are new bosses who are almost as awesome. Puffy's cousin (not officially) Donbalon seems to have Jackal's laugh while Chamelan stole his cards. The spider, Queen Bella is well designed and Cerberus, yes the hell hound, is scary enough to make Reala stutter (officially).

Wiseman - His evil presence is much more intimidating now that he has a personality. The "Evil Homer" laugh lives and the god complex fits perfectly.

Music - I am thrilled that the Sonic Team used familiar themes from the original game . It's comforting and nostalgic but tweaked just enough to keep it exciting. The main theme, the theme for NiGHTS vs Reala, the last stage (formerly know as Twin Seeds, now called Bellbridge), and the fight with Wiseman are all powerfully remixed with just enough kick to give us old fans goosebumps again. In addition, all of the new music fits perfectly.

Gameplay - The gameplay hasn't changed much other than using the new controllers. It 's a little hard to get use to having mastered the special SEGA SATURN NiGHTS Controller years ago.

My Dream - The online capabilities of My Dream are awesome. I wish I had wifi. The "My Dream Garden" is similar to Sonic's Chao Garden except the Nightopians aren't as needy. You do need to feed them, they breed and you have to keep Nightmarens from eating them, but they build the garden up based on what stages you play, what you accomplish and such. If you have wifi it will link with the weather forecast and if it's raining or snowing where you live it will rain or snow in your dream garden. That's just awesome. There are other things you can do online like visit other peoples' gardens and give gifts. Isn't that neat?

Like I said, over all I am a very happy gamer. I hope we don't have to wait another nine years for the next NiGHTS game.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nintendo's Innovative Game Play Technology: It Isn't a Wii Exclusive

I have a new level of respect for the Nintendo DS and it's abilities now that I've started my adventure in "The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass."

Nintendo's new innovative game play technology has those of us who grew up with the original NES re-thinking the way we play videogames. It's obvious that the successful development and release of the Nintendo Wii has triggered a revolution in video game technology, but the Wii does not stand alone.

From black and white to color and then advanced, the Nintendo Game Boy has dominated the hand held market for what seems like forever. When my finacee bought me a Nintendo DS for my birthday, I was looking forward to titles like "Super Princess Peach," "Guilty Gear Dust Strikers," and "Sonic Rush." I thought that the concept of dual and touch screens was a clever step towards the future of video games. I had no idea that the system had anything else to offer in the way of interactivity.

My DS had not been used in several months when I finally decided that it was time to start playing "The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass." As I expected, it is one of those games that once you start playing it, you don't want to put it down. The game follows the storyline from the best selling Game Cube title "The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker."

Since I started the game in early December, I have found myself desperatly seeking answers from online walkthroughs more than once. On one such occasion I was stuck at a part in the game where I was told that Link had to blow out two candles in order to trigger the opening of a dungeon door. I spent nearly thirty minutes running Link around the island he was on trying to figure out how to make him blow out these candles. I even had Link leave the island to go back and check the previous islands he visited to see if I missed anything along the way. It never occured to me that I had to actually blow into the DS microphone in order to blow out the candles. Maybe I missed the commercial that highlighted the microphone feature, but I was...blown away...

On another occasion I found myself having to yell at a character in order to buy something from him. Then later on I found out that in order to copy one mark on my top screen map to the map on my bottom screen I actually had to close the DS and open it back up. If these things sound little and unimpressive to you, consider that the last hand held system I owned was a SEGA Game Gear. When you look at in perspective like that you can't help but appriciate how far technology as come and it's exciting to think about where it's going to go.

Friday, December 7, 2007

deviantArt's New Folder Feature and More

deviantArt is really an amazing artists network once you get past the less than "artistic nudes" and "fetish portraits." I have always loved the "watch this deviant" feature that keeps you up to date with your favorite artists and friends work. Also the ability to pick, save and display favorites is a great way to support other artists.

I joined on Dec. 20, 2003 (I know this only because the site makes a record public on your page for all to see). I don't really remember how I came across DA, but it has graced my browser almost daily ever since. To date, I have had 27,528 page views (which reminds me I should set my next Kiriban at 30,000). I don't go a day with out receiving at least one favorite or one comment from another artist or art fan. I love feedback! Even critical comments! I believe that practice and feedback are the two main elements to learning about and improving upon your art.

Although I've been a member for a long time, it wasn't until recently that I subscribed and began to use some of the more advanced features of DA. As you can see on the right side of my blog navigation I am using both the RSS feed and "Pasties" features that DA offers. This updates the display here on my blog whenever I submit a new deviation. Isn't that convenient, not to mention awesome? Yesterday I noticed the new folders feature which lets your organize your gallery. I love it. Not only is it functional, but it looks great! I just hope that they continue to develop it so it will be possible to put folders inside of folders some day.

There are a lot of awesome features for regular (free) members and subscribers alike. If you're an artist and you haven't given DA a chance you should really check it out! If you are a member and haven't looked into Pasties, RSS feeds, Folders and the other great features, what are you waiting for?!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Non Competitive Artists in the Competitve Field of Art

The first thing that I was told when I decided to go to school for something art related was "It's a competitive field." This was told to me time and time again and I did my best to ignore it. I love art and have always tried to let my heart push me forward rather than the thrill of competition.

I believe that everyone has a certain competitive nature. It's human. When I was young I would compete with other kids for the attention of the adults. Every time I play a video game with my friends we are being competitive. We want to win, we don't want to lose because often when losing in a public setting an issue of embarrassment surfaces. I was never good at handling embarrassment, often arguing and causing conflict. I was never good at sports or on stage talent, in turn, the thought of losing made me avoid these public competitive situations all together.

For a long time I refused to think competitively when it came to my art. I can easily look around and see so many artists who are "better". I guess it's that fear of looking at others who are better as the "winners" and feeling like a "loser" therefor being embarrassed by my current abilities. There are so many art styles out there that it makes it hard to compare your work to others. Regardless, it's easy to say "I wish I could draw(design, write, sing, etc) like so-in-so." These thoughts, fears of embarrassment or disappointment can often hold an artist back from trying to get better.

The statement "Art is a competitive field" usually relates to the job market. Of course any profession that relates to a skill is going to be competitive. Those who are better at their skill are more likely to get the job. Popular artists are popular because they're good, or enough people exist who think they're good. Is it my competitive nature that makes me strive to be one of these "good" artists or is it my passion? Could it be a little of both? Does one have to be competitive to succeed? If so how are some people naturally "good" artists? Is there a place for non competitive artists who are driven by passion alone? Is it possible to be driven by passion alone?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Internet Couldn't Possibly Have Changed That Much, Could It?

Wow, I am all kinds of proud of myself for linking my Deviant Art gallery up to my blog via RSS. Sure it was just a matter of copying a funky looking url into a blogger template field but it worked and I can say that I finally did something with RSS! Something is better than nothing, right?

Since I took a new job three months ago that specifically revolves around web design, I've realized that a lot has changed with the world wide web since tech school. Blogs and wigets are big, programing languages have multiplied and more and more social networking sites are springing up like weeds. True, this didn't happen overnight, but it kinda feels like it did.

Have I really been out of the loop for that long? Did things really change overnight or was I that distracted?

At the new work place I've been thrown into maintaining a primarily php website. Never used php/MySQL until I took the job and I'm suprised at my ability to adapt. I'm brushing up on my Flash action scripting and learning about SEO management, all on my own. It's suprisingly interesting to me.

I kinda feel like I've been reunited with an old friend and we have a lot of catching up to do.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Look Mom, I'm Blogging

I've been wanting to redesign my site for a while now and since blogging is the thing these days, I wanted to give this a shot. I've seen Blogger do great things in the way of customization and I want to see what I can do with it!

What will I blog about? Web Design? Art? Illustrations? Cartoons? Video Games? Cosplay? My Portfolio? My Experiences? Who knows... maybe I'll even ressurect my old online comic?

What would you like see me blogg about? What are you interested in reading?