VGT – Coin Operated Blast from the Past

I spent part of the holidays visiting friends in Park City, Utah.  There I experienced some of the best skiing on earth and some of the best food I’ve ever tasted.  But as the Video Game Theologian, one of the biggest highlights was getting to play one of the two coin operated video game machines in their play room.  One of the machines had Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Galaga.  The other machine had a collection of over 120 video games.  Best of all, both of the machines were rigged so that no quarters were required.  All I had to do was push the start button!

No coins required!

No coins required!

Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga

This was a 25th Anniversary edition of the game cabinet but it seemed to be authentic in every way.  As I played each game, I realized how much I missed the excellent joystick control and nothing, NOTHING will ever replace the fantastic fire buttons.  My favorite game on this cabinet was Galaga.  I played it the most and was able to get a high score of 110,000.  I found that I had worked myself up into a sweat while I was playing.  If I ever score less than 100,000 on Galaga I will be forced to turn in my official “Gamer” card.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to play and take a picture at the same time?

Do you have any idea how hard it is to play and take a picture at the same time?

Galaga just can’t be played correctly on anything other than the real arcade cabinet.  Playing while standing and using the fire button gives it a completely different feel.  I felt like I was 14 again, playing at Time-Out.  I could almost see the video game attendants walking around with their coin changers on their belts, and see the high score cards set on top of each machine.

Arcade Legends

This is more of an all purpose arcade cabinet equipped to play a wide variety of games.  Although I was probably playing some sort of emulator, most of the games looked good – very good.  There were many controller options to choose from – including a track ball for playing games such as Missile Command, Centipede, or Golden Tee Golf.

This cabinet is prepared for anything

This cabinet is prepared for anything

I played a lot of games.  I was able to select the game making company on the right and then select some of their games.  I found myself mostly in the world of Williams, Taito, and Atari  but also found a new game that was surprisingly fun.  Robotron 2084 was played using both joysticks and was an authentic experience.  I’m surprised I didn’t experience a seizure after all the intensity.  I also played Berserk and Moon Patrol.

The Williams menu

The Williams menu

And then along came Atari.  I played Centipede and found the track ball controller to be as good as the original experience.  My only criticism is that some of the Atari games – the vector games – such as Lunar Lander and Asteroids Deluxe did not look as good.  The lines were not crisp and this is the only time I felt like I was playing an emulator rather than the original.  The last game I played was Puzzle Bobble, which is essentially the same game as Bust A Move.  I was just aiming balloons in a “Match 3” type of game but it was a blast.  What also made it great was not having to put another quarter in every time I lost.  That was the real magic of those classic arcade games.  They were designed from the ground up to make me want to put another quarter in.  I would love to have either of these machines installed in my train and game room.

This is Park City, Utah

This is Park City, Utah

I couldn’t play games forever.  I had two great days of experiencing a dream come true.  I had never gone skiing anywhere except the east coast.  I have become a Park City snob!  The views were tremendous and I skied on lots of beautiful, real snow.

My Wii U Experience Part 4

Before I go any further, I am happy to say my blog hit the 1000 views mark recently.  I started it 5 months ago.  Thank you to everyone who takes the time to check out my thoughts.

One step at a time

The Big One Thousand

I realize I am in a niche category.  There are many who are interested in faith subjects, who are not interested in games.  And there are many gamers who are not necessarily interested in faith.  To both parties I want to say I appreciate you for hanging in there with me.

Wii Transfer

I was curious how Nintendo would handle the issue of games that were previously downloaded on my Wii.  I didn’t have a ton of games but there were several Virtual Console  games that I have purchased and at least one WiiWare game that I didn’t want to lose.  Before I go any further I must point out a bad design decision – connecting games that I have downloaded to my console RATHER than to my account.  Both Sony and Microsoft do this the right way.  Steam on PC’s really does it the right way.  On those platforms I purchase a game and the information is connected to me, therefore when I buy a new computer or console I simply log in and have all my games available for download.  But I’m a Nintendo fanboy and therefore I must suffer.  Now on to the final entry into my Wii U Experience.

I do want to give Nintendo credit for making the Wii U backwards compatible so that I can still play Wii games on it.  The solution is found in the creation of a Wii channel on the new system.  I essentially enter Wii mode and it functions exactly like a Wii.  As mentioned before, my purchases were connected to my old Wii and not to my account so I had to use a transfer tool to get my games and game saves.  The tool had be installed on both systems and it required an SD card.  For my graphical viewing pleasure, little Pikmin characters started moving information from one place to the other – the final destination being a rocket ship.

Cute Pikmin Only Leads to SUFFERING

Cute Pikmin Only Leads to SUFFERING

I was actually almost enjoying the visuals until it locked up.  For me it locked up at around %14.  Then I was rewarded by the Error Code message in the picture below.  Error Code: 106-0612.  No matter how many times I tried it kept happening.  Then I tried removing unnecessary data from my Wii.  Games that I knew I could re-download, saves for games I would never play again, and the like.  I had no success.

Another Wii U Error Message!

Another Error Message!

So this is what I ended up doing:

  • I backed up my SD card with all my save game data onto my PC
  • I RESET the Wii – I lost my Mii and every Mii I had ever created
  • I ran the Transfer Tool successfully on the Wii
  • Then, I ran the Transfer Tool successfully on the Wii U
  • Now that Nintendo  was confident that I was not pirating any games, (I mean, God forbid that I might want to play “World of Goo” on two different systems!) I was able to re-download all my Virtual Console and WiiWare games onto the Wii U.  I lost all game saves for these games.
  • For my disc based Wii games, I was not able to just copy my game saves from the SD card to the Wii U.  I had to:
    • Put each game disc in the Wii U.
    • Start the game
    • Create a new game save
    • Leave the game
    • Go to settings
    • Delete the newly created game save
    • Copy the old game save to the Wii U
    • Rinse and Repeat, and Repeat, and Repeat

I just want to say thank you to Nintendo for such a seamless transfer experience.  I hope that you are not getting wet by the dripping of my sarcasm!  My advice to you would be to take everything that you have done up to this point, AND DO THE OPPOSITE!  To Xbox live, I’m Retrocity.  To Sony, I’m Ate Bit Maniac.  But to you Nintendo, I’m just some person who purchased games on a specific Wii.  It’s like you are saying to me, “You don’t matter to us.  However, we appreciate the machines you have purchased from us.  Thanks for the money.”

And I keep giving it to them.

My Wii U Experience Part 3

Have you ever had one of those days?  I had one of them yesterday.  I work with computers and usually have success but yesterday it seemed like everything I touched stopped working properly.  It was kind of like being King Midas except everything was turning to dust rather than gold.  In addition to work, I’ve been working on a few computer problems for friends – and those haven’t gone too well either.  So I will continue my game reviews for the Wii U and perhaps my mood will improve.  It’s not like the world is going to end or anything….

Call of Duty Black Ops 2

One word.  Seasick.  I have never done very well with first person perspective in a game.  I know things have improved since the days of Castle Wolfenstein but I couldn’t get past the second mission of Black Ops 2 without almost losing my lunch.  I quickly took this one to Gamers Alley in Cramerton, NC and traded it in for store credit.  However, I noticed that at the store they had a Wii U and the owner was playing Black Ops 2 online using the Wii U controller.  He seemed to be having a good time.

Assassin’s Creed 3

I picked out this game because I knew it had high graphical standards.  I have to say that Wii U certainly plays well and the game looks fantastic.  I’ve waited a long time to use the words “High Definition” and “Nintendo” in the same sentence.  What makes this game so captivating to me is the location and time period of the game.  The game takes place in colonial America and your character interacts with many people from that time such as Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and the list goes on.

The British are killing, the British are killing

The British are killing, the British are killing

This has not been a perfect game though.  From what I understand, it is using a newly designed game engine and there are glitches all over the place.  I killed this one enemy and instead of falling to the ground he stopped mid fall with his arms flailing.  He was stuck doing the back stroke of death.  Another time a dog came up to me floating about 2 feet off of the ground.

I love playing this on the small screen!

I love playing this on the small screen!

I am currently about 26% of the way through the game and I’m kind of stuck.  I’m in prison and I’m trying to pickpocket another prisoner.  Every time I try I either get caught by the prisoner or spotted by one of the guards.  I have a few other things I want to try but I’m kind of stuck.  AC3 is by far the game I’ve played the most, especially since I can play it on the controller screen while watching football.  I give this game a score of 9 out of 10.

Little Inferno

This odd little game from the makers of World of Goo kept me captivated for a while.  It was a game built by only three people so that’s impressive.  Gameplay consists of the Little Inferno fireplace – where you burn things such as toys or household items.  Each time you burn something you get coins.  But you really make the game move forward by burning combos.

It's fun to burn things

It’s fun to burn things

At first I was captivated by the story, but as the game progressed and ultimately finished I came away more disappointed than satisfied.  I would have enjoyed it more if it had been 8$ rather than 15$ – maybe even a 99 cent Iphone or Droid game.  It is currently only available for the Wii U.  I score this game a 7 out of 10.

So as I reflect on the games I’ve played, the one I enjoyed most is a multi-platform game.  I’m still waiting for the game that will make me say to myself, “This is why I bought the Wii U!”  How about you?  Do you have any game recommendations for me to try?  Be on the lookout for my final post of the Wii U experience.  It will cover the process of transferring your Wii games and settings to the Wii U.  Talk about something that put me in a melancholy mood…..

My Wii U Experience Part 2

Now it’s time to do some quick reviews of the games I have played on the new Wii U.  This may be an appropriate time to comment on what a horrible name it is.  I can’t feel like anything but a dork whenever I say or write, “Wii U”.  I felt the same way when it was just the Wii.  I remember back when the Wii was in development and they were calling it the Revolution.  That would have been such a cool name.  Instead we got the Wii.  Wheeee!  97 million units sold later….I guess they were right about the name.  I think the two “i’s” are supposed to look like two people playing together.

Nintendo Land

Imagine getting the best tech demo designers and putting together a collection of mini games for a new controller.  Nintendo Land is good.  VERY good.  It seems that each game uses the controller in a unique way.  Some games are co-op, some are solo, and some are competitive.  Metroid was a lot of fun as a co-op shooter, but my son and I really enjoyed the Zelda game.  The games are all simple yet extremely challenging.  I sat and played the Yoshi game for a couple of hours without even noticing the time.

Adorable Mii as Link

Adorable Mii as Link

It would have been great if I had been able to buy the system that included this game for free, but I’m still glad I own it.  It doesn’t quite do what Wii Sports did for the Wii, but it is a great deal of fun.  I find myself going back to Nintendo Land just because it has so much variety.  I would score it an 8 out of 10.

I love the style of this Zelda game

I love the style of this Zelda game

Trine 2

Trine 2 was downloaded from the Nintendo E-shop.  I mainly bought it so I could try playing an on-line game with my friend Squiggly.  I have mixed feelings about this game.  It looks great and has some challenging puzzles, but the story is very generic.  I also had a lot of trouble connecting the Wii U for online gameplay.  I kept getting an error message.  I finally found the solution by searching online.  It turned out I had to put the IP address of the Wii U in a DMZ on my router.  After that, it worked fine but it kind of put me out of the mood.

Trine 2 has great art style

Trine 2 has great art style

If there was voice chat for the game it would be so much better.  It is a pain in the neck trying to communicate by making your character gesture madly or trying to point at something.  Maybe the designers thought that was part of the charm but in my opinion it backfired.  Basically for the game, you can switch between a warrior, a wizard, and a thief – who are called by a mystical force called the Trine.  They go on an adventure together.  Each screen is a puzzle and the unique qualities of each character are used to solve the puzzle and move forward.  There can be more than one way to solve the puzzle.  I’m putting this one at a 6 out of 10.

I still have 3 more games to talk about and I will put them in the next post.

My Wii U Experience Part 1

My next round of postings are going to be much more about video games and less about theology.  I know that I have a few friends who have commented that they are not really into video games.  So I’m letting you know at the beginning.  I want to write about my interests and I’m very interested in a billion dollar industry that generates more revenue than many Hollywood blockbusters.  It is a huge part of the western culture we live in.  Video games have actually changed the way we think about a lot of things.

I wasn’t really planning on getting a Wii U until I was having a Skype call with my son, a student at Savannah College of Art and Design.  He was talking about what a great time we had back in 2006, when we camped outside a Wal-Mart overnight with about 70 other people to be the first to get a Wii.  It was a fun evening.  I remember playing Mario Cart with 7 other people in the chilly November air.  Then he suggested, that when he came home for break, perhaps we could do it again.  I heard him saying to me a deeper statement, “Dad I’ve missed you and we’ve had some really special times together.  I want to feel like your boy again.”  So I agreed that yes, we should.

My son

My son

This time our experience was different.  We still bought it at a Wal-Mart, but this time it was open 24 hours – so there was no need to camp outside.  We arrived at around 11 pm and there was already a line of 5 people.  I asked at the register if there were any Wii U’s available.  He said that they had 6 of them, and I was number 6.  He took my name and then we went into the line.  We were fully prepared to wait until the next morning (I was told by a sales associate earlier in the day that we would have to wait until 6 am before they could be sold) BUT it turned out that we were able to start purchasing at midnight.  We left the store with the system in a bag twenty minutes later.  We didn’t feel that we quite earned the right to purchase.  We faced no cold weather and we weren’t the slightest bit exhausted.

Since we had the game system much earlier than expected, we changed plans and it turned out my friend Squiggly was at home and awake.  He was happy to have us come over and try out the new game system.  So I picked up some chips and sodas and we went to his house.

We set up the Wii U and experienced our first disappointment.  It was a rare blunder by Nintendo, but the system downloaded a major update.  I’m talking about a 6 gig – 90 minutes of watching a progress bar update!  I’m involved with technology on a professional level, and there must have been something very wrong for them to have insisted on such a large update.  So, we stayed up until 2:00 watching a progress bar.  Fortunately Squiggly had some other games that we played to pass the time.

Wii U Pad

Wii U Pad

There are two kinds of Wii U.  I wanted to purchase the cool, black Wii U that had 32 Gig of storage, a charging cradle, and Nintendo Land.  However, I could not be choosy and had to buy the basic set which included a white Wii U with 8 Gig of storage.  There was a $50 price difference between the two and I’ve since purchased the Nintendo Land game for $60.  My advice to you is – get the higher priced system if you can.  I’ve had no problems with the basic setup though.

Once the system was ready, we were finally able to play some games.  I purchased two games – Assassin’s Creed III and Call of Duty Black Ops 2.  I’ve also downloaded 2 games from the E shop – Trine 2 and Little Inferno.   I’ll write about the game play on my next post – coming very soon!