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Column: Game Time With Mr Raroo

Comic-Con Time With the Raroos: 2009 Edition (Part 3)

July 25, 2009 8:00 AM |

Comic-Con Time With the Raroos[GameSetWatch has sent GameSetWatch columnist Mister Raroo and his family to San Diego Comic-Con to report on their adventures there. We'll be running daily updates from the Raroos as the convention progresses, and after the first and second parts, the third segment is about Friday.]

Friday, July 24: Quite a Contrast

The great thing about attending every day of Comic-Con is that it helps me fall into the type of “vacation mode” that I enjoyed as a kid during the Summer months away from school. We woke up when we were ready to wake up, took our time getting ready to go, and headed over to the Convention Center at our own pace.

Today we brought Kaz and decided to experiment by not taking along a stroller. Even though that meant a great part of the day was spent with a nearly-40 pound weight riding upon my shoulders, it beat trying to navigate a stroller through the daunting crowds. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be going stroller-less for the remainder of the convention.

Not-So-Wonderful WomanOn the walk from our car to the Convention Center, we stopped off for a bite to eat. Kaz and I polished off an especially decadent hot fudge sundae. I couldn’t believe how much ice cream my little son ate, not to mention the fact that he let us know he still wanted more by chanting “Ice Cream! Ice Cream!” when the bowl was empty. But we figured he had more than enough sugar and made our way to the Convention Center.

Even though I praised the creativity of many of the costumed attendees in yesterday’s update, I witnessed a couple outfits today that made me realize that some people are better off in street clothes. Whether it was a Klingon with “cameltoe” or Wonder Woman with a not-so-wonderful rear end, there were plenty of examples of sights I didn’t ask to see. I wasn’t the only one in disapproval, either, as I overheard someone behind me make a comment about Wonder Woman to the effect of, “Man, I hope that doesn’t fly around in an invisible plane.”

Comic-Con Time With the Raroos: 2009 Edition (Part 2)

July 23, 2009 9:00 PM |

Comic-Con Time With the Raroos[GameSetWatch has sent GameSetWatch columnist Mister Raroo and his family to San Diego Comic-Con to report on their adventures there. We'll be running daily updates from the Raroos as the convention progresses, and after the first part, the second segment is about Thursday.]

Thursday, July 23: Game Day

Thursdays are traditionally the slowest day at Comic-Con, but it seems tradition has been kicked to the curb because it was still pretty busy! Thankfully, the show floor was significantly less crowded thanks to all the panels and events taking place throughout the day. We decided to focus on checking out as many video games as we could manage.

Our son Kaz normally goes to daycare on Thursdays, and we decided we might be more efficient if let him go to “school” as usual and we headed to Comic-Con without him. While it was much easier to navigate from booth to booth, we found ourselves missing our little boy throughout the day and plan on taking with us him for the remainder of the convention.

Honestly, there weren’t that many games that really grabbed my attention off the bat. After strolling through Sony’s, Capcom’s, and EA’s booths, I was not feeling very inspired to push my way through the swarms of bodies to try out any of the demos. I attempted to speak with some of the press representatives at the various game company booths but just about all of them didn’t seem to know very much about the titles on display.

Thinking of KazI was about to give up hope on even trying out any games at all when I spotted Bayonetta at the Sega booth and made my way through the crowd to give it a look. I don’t know if I’m too enthralled with the character design, but it seems like a nice, snappy action game. However, it was another game tucked away in the corner of the Sega booth that really got me excited: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

I wish Kaz had been there to see the game because he would’ve been filled with glee. He loves Mario Kart and Sega Superstars Tennis, and with Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing developer Sumo Digital really seems to have combined the best of both words. I was taken aback at just how fun the game was as well as the level of polish it already seems to have, and I can’t wait until its release next year, which should be just in time for Kaz’s third birthday.

Comic-Con Time With the Raroos: The 2009 Edition (Part 1)

July 23, 2009 9:00 AM |

Comic-Con Time With the Raroos[GameSetWatch has -- in a startling journalistic feat -- sent GameSetWatch columnist Mister Raroo and his family to San Diego Comic-Con to report on their adventures there. We'll be running daily updates from the Raroos as the convention progresses, and the first segment is about Preview Night.]

Wednesday, July 22: Not-So-Exclusive Engagement

There was once a time not very long when San Diego Comic-Con’s Preview Night was a much different affair than what it is today. Even just a few years ago, it was possible to navigate the aisles and not bump into other people at every other step. Booths were free from massive lines and it felt like a truly exclusive affair.

Those days are a long gone. Comic-Con’s main floor may actually be busier on Preview Night than on any other day due to the fact that there are no panels or events to attend, so wandering the aisles and checking out the booths is the only thing to do. With so many people packed into one place, it didn’t take long before the Exhibit Hall felt like a sauna.

Without a doubt, one of the most hectic areas of the entire show floor was the store at Capcom’s booth. Attendees were anxious to spend money on goodies, and Capcom was all too happy to rake in the cash. I promised JC from Tiny Cartridge that I’d pick him up a ServBot keychain, and I’m glad to say I came away successful. But it was quite a memorable battle!

Game Announcement: Mister Raroo's Hauntastic Voyage to Ghosty Ghost's Island

June 7, 2009 4:00 PM |

Mister Raroo Game Cartridge[GameSetWatch is proud to unveil Mister Raroo’s Hauntastic Voyage to Ghosty Ghost’s Island, the first release on our new video game publishing label, GameSetWatchGames. Designed by Mister Raroo, Hauntastic Voyage to Ghosty Ghost’s Island will soon be released for the Raroo Fun System game console. Note: Mister Raroo’s Hauntastic Voyage to Ghosty Ghost’s Island, GameSetWatchGames, and the Raroo Fun System exist solely in the mind of Mister Raroo!]

Junior Game Designer

I fancied myself something of a game designer when I was in elementary school. However, I knew nothing about the technical side of developing video games. Instead, I thought that once imagined in the minds of their creators, video games were somehow just made by companies, as if it simply happened on its own. The idea that actual people were involved in the creation process didn’t even dawn upon me.

My lack of understanding led me to believe that if I had a “genius” idea for a video game, I could send my concept to one of my favorite game companies and within a few months that game would hit store shelves. And, of course, I’d be given a free copy of the game as a reward for my efforts. Naturally, I kept myself very busy by putting pencil to paper and drawing up the levels for my games.

Unfortunately, the companies I sent my video game ideas to didn’t seem to share my vision. To their credit, just about every time I eagerly mailed off my ideas, I received a response. Sadly, all the game companies had the same thing to say: “Sorry, we don’t solicit ideas for games from outside parties.”

I didn’t understand it. I believed my game concepts to be absolutely brilliant. Who wouldn’t love a game starring a guinea pig that had to make it through a series of perilous platforming levels so he could eat the evil carrot king waiting at the end? Or who wouldn’t want to play a game starring a boy with a broken arm named “Cat” who needed to rescue lost cats? It just didn’t make sense to me.

I wish I’d made copies of the game ideas I sent to companies because I never got them back. Most likely, my game designs found their way into the waste paper baskets at the desks of the individuals in charge of opening mail at the various companies. It would be neat to be able revisit the output of my childhood imagination, but all I have left are faint memories of my game ideas.

COLUMN: Game Time With Mr. Raroo: 'Love Stung: My Affair With Hudson Soft'

May 15, 2009 8:00 AM |

Game Time With Mister Raroo logo[In a GameSetWatch-exclusive article, Mister Raroo catches up with one of his first gaming loves, Hudson Soft. Hudson have had an interesting presence in the game industry over the years, and Mister Raroo explores not only Hudson Soft's history, but how his personal experiences and feelings have intertwined with the company's software.]

First Kiss, First Love

Two things happened during my eighth grade class’s trip to the East Coast in 1990: I awkwardly kissed a girl for the first time, and I fell in love. However, other than the fact that both happened while I was in New York, the two events are not related to one another. The kiss, in all its embarrassing whoops-our-teeth-just-knocked-together glory happened during a makeshift game of Spin the Bottle while on a late evening bus trip. The falling-in-love, however, occurred one afternoon at FAO Schwartz toy store.

Alien CrushFresh off its cameo in the Tom Hanks flick Big, FAO Schwartz was a destination that excited many of us eighth graders, if only because we wanted to visit the store we had seen in the movie. Thankfully, we were not disappointed, and our senses were almost overwhelmed with the many dazzling sights and sounds that surrounded us. But for me, my attention was focused on a wall of television screens working in unison to display an incredible sight: Alien Crush for the Turbografx-16.

I was not unfamiliar with the Turbografx-16, and in fact I had brought along a number of video game magazines jam-packed with information about the system on the trip with me, but this was the first I had seen any of the system’s games in motion. Put simply, I was blown away. Alien Crush sported a level of graphical detail the likes of which I’d never seen outside of an arcade, and I declared then and there that I’d do whatever it took to own a Turbografx-16. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done.

With an allowance of five dollars per week, it would take a ridiculously long period of time to save up for a Turbografx-16, not to mention a game or two to play. To my mom, a video game system was a video game system, and she didn’t understand why in the world I needed another game system when I had a perfectly good Atari 7800 at home. It took months of effort on my part to even get her to the point of considering the prospect of buying me a Turbograx-16, and it wasn’t until my birthday in 1991 that I finally got my mitts on the system.

Game Time With Mister Raroo: Growing as a Parent, Growing as a Gamer

April 7, 2009 8:00 AM |

Game Time With Mister Raroo logo[In an interesting mash-up, the latest instalment of Mister Raroo's regular GameSetWatch column uses one of his wife’s blog posts as the backbone for this article, discussing the trials and tribulations of parenthood -- specifically about how being a dad has changed his gaming tastes.]

From Akemi Monster to Car Monster

Not too long ago my wife Akemi wrote an entry called "Taking After Our Child" on her blog that discusses how becoming a mother has led to her taking up interests should would normally have no taste for simply because our son loves them. One of the key examples she gives is how even though she’s never had any inclination to think twice about cars, our car-obsessed toddler has given her a new appreciation for them.

Akemi remembers, “When I was pregnant with our son, my husband and I decided that we wanted to keep the baby's gender a surprise. We not only liked the idea that the birth would be like getting to open the biggest surprise gift ever, but we also wanted to avoid the trap of receiving piles of gender specific shower gifts. The thought of ending up with a collection of ‘My Little Slugger’ or ‘Our Princess’ apparel truly appalled us. We were determined to raise our child in as gender neutral a way as possible. And then...our son was born.”

Indeed, though we didn’t intentionally steer Kaz toward “boy” interests, those seemed to be what he just naturally gravitated towards. For example, from before the time he was a year old, he loved playing with balls, usually in the form of throwing them directly at my head (often when I wasn’t expecting it). He seriously possesses an amazingly good arm for such a little guy! But it was in past few months that he found his true love: cars.

Mister Raroo Investigates: Japan's Dangerous "Toilet Gaming" Subculture

April 1, 2009 8:00 AM |

Mister Raroo Investigates Logo[In a change of pace from his usual articles, Mister Raroo reports on an unhealthy gaming trend that has recently plagued Japan. With reckless abandon for personal health, a subculture of users exploited a medical product as a way to engage in intense competition for top spot upon an online leaderboard. Thanks goes to GameSetWatch’s Japanese correspondent Shiichi Okuma for assistance in interview translation.]

Use Only as Directed

Sometimes ideas that are sound in theory can end up having unforeseen devastating effects. This past week, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare issued a recall order for Makoto Otoi Corporation’s Happy Health Toilet Seat. In a sad bit of irony, the device, which was intended to provide a fun and interesting way for Japanese consumers to monitor their personal health, quickly led to a wave of hospitalizations for a surprisingly large number of its owners.

Happy Health Toilet SeatUsing state of the art medical technology, the Happy Health Toilet Seat examines users’ bowel movements and, by calculating numerous factors such as toxin levels, provides corresponding health data. Instead of a complicated medical readout, however, information is presented on a small LCD screen featuring a charming, customizable character that looks like something from the Dragon Quest series, not unlike Takara Tomy’s BankQuest. When healthy ratings are registered, the character “levels up” and can be equipped with new outfits and accessories. Also, users’ health ratings are updated on an online leaderboard with each use of the Happy Health Toilet Seat.

Unfortunately, a flaw in the design of the Happy Health Toilet Seat was quickly discovered and exploited by users, leading to a frantic battle for top spot aboard the leaderboard. Users found their character’s statistics could easily be boosted in accordance with the amount of solid waste they created at each session, which led to extreme overeating and abuse of laxatives by top scorers. Though Makoto Otoi Corporation attempted to solve the problem with a firmware upgrade, most users of the Happy Health Toilet Seat choose not to accept the update and instead kept exploiting the glitch.

Shunichi Okada, vice chairman of Makoto Otoi Corporation, states that his company did all within its power to combat the problem. “We attempted to issue the firmware upgrade, but when that didn’t work, we offered a monetary rebate for anyone that traded their Happy Health Toilet Seat in for a newer model with the updated software.” Additionally, Makoto Otoi Corporation ran television and radio advertisements urging users to use the Happy Health Toilet Seat as an instrument for health, but these attempts may have actually backfired and sparked more interest in competing for the top spot atop the online leaderboard.

GameSetPlaying: Mister Raroo's Moments

March 20, 2009 4:00 PM |

Game Time With Mister Raroo logo [Mister Raroo's been a very busy man in the past few months, which means his regular GSW column has been a little on the sparse side a of late. However, anyone looking for a Raroo fix should note that he has been quietly chronicling the games he's been playing on his relatively new blog, Moments. Here's some highlights...]

Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
As my party and I approach the Presidium on our way to the Wards, we encounter an argument between a Turian officer and a Hanar evangelist. The poor officer seems at wit’s end trying to dissuade the Hanar from continuing to preach without a license. Even though I’ve got more important business to take care of, I decide to step in and see if there’s anything I can do to help.

The Hanar claims to have no money but feels it’s wrong to have to pay to spread its message. The Turian, on the other hand, is just trying to do his job and obviously would rather not be dealing with such a trivial issue. After hearing both parties out I decide to pay for the Hanar’s permit and everyone is happy. I linger for just a moment to take in the strangeness of the jellyfish-like Hanar’s appearance before continuing on my way.

Game Time With Mister Raroo: Gaming in the Now

March 17, 2009 8:00 AM |

Game Time With Mister Raroo logo[Returning to his GameSetWatch-exclusive column after a break, gaming's very own Garrison Keillor, the permanently sunny Mister Raroo looks at why, although many gamers are accustomed to certain types of structure in games, the moment-to-moment enjoyment of playing may be even more important.]

Just Noodling Around

Recently I was trying to describe the Playstation 3’s delightfully odd Noby Noby Boy to some of my friends, but the same question kept coming up: “What do you do?”

I tried to explain how basically you control a kind of a stretchy noodle that can make itself longer and shorter, and you can direct the noodle to eat objects in its environment only to expel them out of its rear end. Noby Noby Boy is certainly more of a plaything than a game, and this concept was difficult for many of my friends to grasp.

As for me, some of my favorite video games are those in which there really isn’t a point to them. I can lose myself for hours in a title such as Electroplankton on the Nintendo DS.

Though many people may not understand the appeal of what is essentially a musical toy, Electroplankton’s allocation for seemingly infinite sound combinations is like heaven for me. There are no levels to complete, no Achievements to unlock, no story to keep track of. Some gamers may get frustrated and ask, “How do I win? When does the game end? What am I supposed to be doing?” Instead, I can just have fun with musical experimentation.

Game Time With Mister Raroo: 'Two Sides to the Story: The Pros and Cons of Digital Distribution'

January 23, 2009 4:00 PM |

Game Time With Mister Raroo (and Angel and Devil Raroo)[Mister Raroo's latest regular GameSetWatch column considers the positive and negative aspects of digital distribution - where, naturally arguments for and against are made by an angel and devil sitting upon his shoulders. Can the angel and devil reach a consensus, or will Mister Raroo have to listen to their squabbling to no end?]

Angel RarooIs there really anything to debate here? It’s obvious that Mister Raroo loves digital downloads! Look at all the games he’s purchased from the Wii Shopping Channel, Playstation Store, and Xbox Live Arcade. In fact, he probably plays those games more than any of his disc-based games.

No more driving to the store to buy games. No more game cases cluttering up his shelves. No more having to get off the couch to change game discs! He has completely stepped into the digital distribution era!

Devil RarooOh come now! Mister Raroo’s got some hang-ups about digital distribution. Remember all those digital duds he bought? Does Heavy Weapon ring a bell? Or how about RoboBlitz? They’re just sitting neglected and taking up valuable space on Mister Raroo’s Xbox 360’s hard drive. In an ideal situation, those games would be eBay fodder. But, oh wait! Mister Raroo can’t resell games that he’s downloaded, can he?

Angel RarooLet’s not forget, Devil Raroo, that digitally downloaded games are usually significantly cheaper than disc-based games. Together, the two “duds” you mentioned cost $25, which is less than half the price of most new Xbox 360 discs. Sure, it’s unfortunate that Mister Raroo wasted $25 on games he doesn’t play (knucklehead!), but that’s his fault.

Every Xbox Live Arcade game has a demo, as do some Playstation Network games. As for Wii…? Well, you’re on your own in that department, but in this day and age it’s not hard to go online and read impressions and reviews.

Devil RarooI’ll agree that Mister Raroo is sometimes an idiot when it comes to buying games he shouldn’t waste his money on, but there are times when the demos can make games seem more tantalizing than they actually are. You buy the game and—poof!—you’re stuck with a disappointment.

And publishers sure do what they can to make digitally downloaded games a breeze to purchase. How many times does a message pop up in the middle of a demo prompting you to buy the game? If the demo is halfway decent, it can be hard not to accept the offer and purchase the game on the spot, especially when the price is often deceptively unclear.

Angel Raroo“Deceptively unclear?” I assume you’re referring to the use of “points” instead of actual monetary units for games downloaded from the Xbox 360 and the Wii. I’m surprised you’re not fond of that, since it is indeed devilish of Microsoft and Nintendo to substitute real money with points. Get it? “Devilish”? Haha! Ahem. Getting back on point, I'll admit that purchasing games via digital distribution can sometimes make it feel like you're not spending actual money. After all, there is no physical transaction taking place and you’re often spending pre-purchased points instead of dollars.

Dropping 400 points on a game feels far less significant than spending five dollars. But all the same, unless you have only a juvenile grasp of monetary and mathematical understanding, there is no deception in the fact that you are spending actual money. You do have to spend money on points in the first place, after all.