Speaking About Games: It’s Getting Easier!

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been recording gameplay footage and providing running commentary for each of them. Although I really fumbled my way through the first couple videos — which took countless takes to finally get right — they’re becoming a lot less painful to do, which is a good sign.

My first one, which is already kind of difficult to watch, can be found HERE. Just listening to it, I can tell I was very distracted by the sound of my own voice in the room, and I was also likely trying to be quiet since family was on the other side of my closed door. Focusing through distractions I surely wasn’t.

For my second attempt, I tried something a little different, opting to do a preview of the game I’m currently playing, NES Remix 2 for the Wii U:

I wanted it to be slightly more formal, but still feel casual, and I think it turned out OK. There are, of course, a lot of things I would change, but instead of iterate endlessly on the same thing and risk it losing any sort of spontaneity (and me getting burnt out in the process), I decided to stop with what I had and publish it.

One of the most important bits of advice I ever heard was from one of my favorite YouTubers, boogie2988, who said to just keep creating content and get it all out there, no matter how you’re feeling, and eventually you’ll build up a base of fans, subscribers, and new friends. Check him out if you haven’t; he has a lot of great things to say. He also partially inspired me to start this whole GHG journey.

Anyway, I like the overall flow of that video, and I’m glad I was able to squeeze in the parts about Super Luigi Bros. and Championship Mode, which I still haven’t really spent any time with as I continue through the main game. One thing I do regret is not getting the information about Championship Mode right. A little pre-recording research would have made me sound less like an ignoramus! Oh well, c’est la vie.

My third video was a singular set of NES Remix 2 replays for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link:

What I wanted to do with this one was showcase a single, focused theme, going through all of the game’s challenges in order. I was also admittedly pretty proud of some of my times, so it’s a mildly selfish opportunity to show off a little bit, which is tough, since I don’t like bragging about much.

My voice still sounds a bit hesitant, with odd pauses, mixed-up tenses, phrases that don’t go together, and the dreaded “speaking from the throat”, which is a clear sign of nervousness.

This took me quite a few restarts to get going, and after about the tenth fail, I almost gave up. Good thing I didn’t, because about 95% of the audio here is from the final take that followed.

Today, I did my fourth video, which walks through all twenty of the first Remix I stages from the same game:

I feel like I’m starting to catch my stride here. Not only did I get this in just two takes, but I think I’m sounding more comfortable and relaxed.

Much like my blog posts, I need to work on better word variety, stamping out fillers like “you know”, “uhh”, “yeah”, etc., and like the First Impressions video earlier in this post, doing more research and preparation prior to hitting the record button would really help. It’s a small detail, but it’d be nice to be able to call out the actual enemy names and such instead of falling back on generics like “that guy”, “those baddies”, and “the boss”.

This is also my longest video at just about 12 minutes. That’s a lot of talking from someone known for being a pretty quiet guy.

Anyway, I’m having a blast doing this, and apologies again for everything being so NES Remix-focused recently. It’s such a fun series that I hope we see more of in the future. Just between the Game Boy Color, Super Nintendo, and Game Boy Advance, the possibilities are endless!


Progress Report: NES Remix 2 (Wii U)

20140721_nes_remix_2_2I cannot tell a lie: I’m all sorts of addicted to this game.

Now, as much as I played the heck out of the first NES Remix, the sequel does just about everything better this time around, providing an experience that is more fun from the get-go.


First of all, the selection of games on display here is arguably better, mostly because they are newer and more refined in their gameplay and controls. Some, like Kirby’s Adventure and Wario’s Woods, were originally released in 1993 and 1994, respectively.

This is quite impressive given that the 32-bit PlayStation came out in 1994, two generations removed from the 8-bit NES. I always like seeing the differences between launch games and those from the end of a console cycle. It’s like night and day.


Anyway, another area that has seen noticeable improvements is the Miiverse. You can now watch replays from your friends — which are prioritized — and other players to see just how they got those low Clear Times. This is a terrific addition, and one of the best features of NES Remix 2. In my opinion, it’s always best to try figuring out how to get as low a time as possible on your own, but once you’ve hit a wall, watching ultra-fast runs really opens your eyes to shortcuts and other tricks.

Knowing what you need to do and actually doing it, though? These are two very different things that can be very difficult to replicate. I’ve retried stages many, many times in order to shave off a tenth of a second or two. It can be infuriating when you can’t seem to improve upon or even match the best Miiverse times, but it’s so much fun, and I find it nearly impossible to tear myself away from the game until I’m successful.


My mentality and approach to playing this has also changed. In the original NES Remix, I was perfectly satisfied and would move on if I just got 3 stars. I would eventually go back and rainbow star everything, but that wasn’t until much later. In NES Remix 2, I find myself almost obsessing over each stage, wanting to beat the lowest Miiverse times that appear for each one.

Doing things this way has made forward progress in the game a lot slower, but it has also given me a very deep appreciation for each individual title, and it underscores how well these old Nintendo games were designed. Even the ones that are just OK are elevated when the element of time comes into play.


Getting back to the Miiverse, another addition that makes a huge difference is that now the individual game and stage names are tagged in Miiverse posts. In the first NES Remix, if you were viewing updates outside of the game, you wouldn’t have any context, unless the person who wrote it put it in their post. Here, you can see which game and stage a post pertains to, so it’s a lot more helpful now.

I’ve been having a blast comparing times and doodling pictures for other Wii U players. I’ve mentioned it before, but the Miiverse is by far my favorite implementation of a console social network. It’s smooth, easy to use, and a lot of fun.


In terms of the actual Remix stages, I’ve barely scratched the surface. As I did with NES Remix, I’m going through all the individual games first before I take on the wacky and unique challenges to be found there.

I also haven’t really messed with the modes outside of the main game, namely Super Luigi Bros. and Championship Mode.


Any gripes so far? Yeah, one thing I’ve never liked in this series is that you can’t just forfeit a life and retry the current sub-stage you’re on. It’s annoying when your only options are to (a) restart the entire thing from scratch, (b) waste time trying to lose a life, or (c) wait for the sub-stage timer to end. Depending on the circumstances, this can take a long time, and a slight tweak in design could have made this so much more streamlined.

Another quibble is that occasionally, you’ll run into a challenge where one of the sub-stages is simply a long, drawn-out, non-interactive demo. I’m looking at you, Punch-Out!! and Kirby’s Adventure. Why they decided to put these in the game baffles me. If you replay these to improve your times, you will learn to hate them quickly.

Finally, I wish there were traditional leaderboards, with sorting options for friends, regions, and time periods. Currently, the only way to know what times your friends achieved is if they manually post them in the Miiverse. A more automated leaderboard system would have been so much better for a game like this.


Besides those things, however, this is one fantastic game. It takes the addictive formula of NES Remix and polishes it into a better experience. I look forward to playing through the rest of it, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that SNES Remix isn’t far behind!

For more first impressions of NES Remix 2, check out my YouTube video HERE.


Bringing my voice to YouTube

When I was in high school, memorizing and reciting poetry was a big part of my junior year English class. I distinctly remember Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, which now, over two decades later, not only remains in my memory, but the content resonates with me more strongly than it ever has. Age and life in general have a tendency to do that.

After standing up in front of the class for the first time to deliver it, my teacher made a passing comment about how he thought I had a good speaking voice. Teens don’t have a reputation for ignoring the older generation for nothing; I got embarrassed, shrugged it off, and quickly went back to my desk. He would go on to say this a few more times throughout the school year, at one point saying I really needed to be on the radio. I would just smile uncomfortably and try to forget about it.

Why do we do this? I’ve never taken compliments well, and my first reaction — instead of doing the polite thing and saying thanks — is instead to downplay them. I mean, who knows? Had I instead taken my teacher’s words to heart, I might have gone on to study Media Communications or Broadcast Journalism in college, like my best friend did. I think he has a terrific speaking voice, and he went on to do great things on the TV news channels down in Florida.

Those words from high school stuck with me over the years. I never particularly cared for the way my voice sounded, and as a result, I never pursued anything in that realm. It’s like Werner Brandes (Stephen Tobolowsky) said in the terrific film Sneakers about his own voice, “I always thought it was kind of nasal and pinched.”

But as they say, one of the worst things you can do is have regrets in your life, so with one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 being to face my fears, this week I decided to tackle them both by bringing my own voice to YouTube.


After doing considerable research and of course, talking myself out of buying the most expensive microphone available on Amazon, I picked up a Blue Snowball USB microphone. With good reviews and an inoffensive price point, I bought one along with a Nady MPF-6 pop filter. I was going to buy a small acoustical microphone shield, but it’s an expensive addition, so for now, I’ll likely just buy a piece of foam and create a do-it-yourself one, or use a small pillow.

The microphone itself is of very high quality and is available in a variety of different colors. I went with the brushed aluminum finish, which has a beautiful, classic look to it. Packaging is nice, and although the microphone housing is plastic, it has substantial heft and does not feel cheap. It sits on a sturdy, folding desktop stand, which the pop filter can be conveniently attached.

PC installation is simple: Just plug it into an open USB port, Windows auto-detects it, and you’re ready to start recording.

There are three settings on the microphone, which are designed for speech, live music (activates a -10 dB pad), and environmental (omni-directional). Mine shipped in position 3, so if you pick one of these up, be sure to select the appropriate setting before you begin.


The pop filter came in a somewhat cheap and flimsy blister pack, and the flexible gooseneck has a disappointing tendency to float and not stay in place during adjustment. However, it’s one of the cheaper options available, and if you’re going to be doing a lot of talking, this is a wise investment. Additionally, the stand mount is very solid, and once it’s in place, it stays put.

On the software side, for recording and editing, I have the open-source Audacity, which is easy and very comfortable for me to use. In many ways, it’s similar to one of my old favorites, Cool Edit. Still image, video, and audio integration is all done in Adobe Photoshop and CyberLink PowerDirector.


So with those details taken care of, it was time for the real work to begin. I sat there at my desk earlier this week pondering what exactly I wanted to talk about. Yeah, it would be related to gaming, but how exactly? My mind raced, thinking about the massive amount of current YouTube videogame content creators, and what — if anything — I could possibly bring to the table.

Feeling intimidated, I watched some of my favorites for some inspiration. The most important thing I realized is that the ones that I really like and keep coming back to are incredibly passionate people. They don’t just regurgitate what’s been said before, and you not only learn about the games they’re playing, but you gain meaningful and lasting insight into them as human beings. Sure, some of them do it more loudly than others, but there are just as many who are quiet and introspective. For every expletive-weaving Rageaholic there’s a mild-mannered Pete Dorr, and I like that. I like that a lot.

It opened my eyes. I stopped thinking about it too much, and decided to simply talk about the game I was ready to 100% complete: NES Remix for the Wii U. Now, as I’ve said before, I didn’t really like the game all that much at first, but later on it became one of my favorites. Even looking at that re-review today, I feel the game is even better now, with fantastic replay value and very fun Miiverse integration.

I should have know this next fact beforehand, but yeah, deciding to do something and actually doing it are two very, very different things. While I knew I wanted to discuss the final stage of NES Remix, exactly what I wanted to discuss was difficult to figure out. Would I need an intro? Would I just talk while I played? Would I write a script? Would I edit out the bad stuff? Would I just do a play-by-play of what I was doing? The questions in my mind went on and on.

To get the easier part out of the way, I wrote a script for the brief intro, which went pretty smoothly. Recording it took a good number of takes, as I experimented with different inflections and emphasis, but it was more so because I kept messing up!

For the actual gameplay, I would end up trying every approach. On my first attempt, I immediately gained a new-found respect for people who can play games well and talk coherently at the same time. It’s really hard to talk when you’re trying to concentrate on not dying in a game, and after several failures, I stopped and decided to save that one for later.

Next, I recorded myself playing, and when I was finally happy with the footage, I jotted down notes and scripted out the framework for what I wanted to cover during each segment. This too ended up being a failed style for me since as I was talking about one thing, my eyes would scan ahead, tripping up what I was trying to currently get out. Similarly to what I said above, folks who can read scripts, anticipate what’s ahead, and make it all sound natural have a great talent.

Finally, feeling a bit frustrated and on the verge of quitting, I decided to just do it commentary-style on the fly. I worried about this approach since I’m not the most talkative person on the face of the planet, and am an introvert by nature. However, I set out to get this done, and get it done I did. It took a few tries, but it ended up being the most natural and comfortable technique for me.

After finishing recording and getting everything tidied up in post, here is the result:

For a first attempt, I think it turned out OK. Of course, all I can fixate on are the little mistakes, long pauses, weird choice of words, and other such nitpicks. That’s the double-edged sword of being your own worst critic, right?

In any event, it feels good to have finally broken through this long-standing sound barrier in my life, and I appreciate the comments and suggestions I’ve already received from my friends, readers, and now viewers. I look forward to creating more of these, and as always, if you have any game or topic requests, please let me know. It’d be tons of fun to cover games I would have never thought to play otherwise.


Re-Review: NES Remix (Wii U eShop)


I gave NES Remix a B- earlier this year, after losing interest in it rather quickly. When I bought it, I was expecting it to be similar to the WarioWare series, with quick, bite-sized challenges of increasing difficulty. In a way, that’s exactly what I got. However, instead of just a well-timed button press here or a tilt of the GBA there, these challenges required more effort and patience. In other words, you have to be good at these games. Did I really want to be devoting valuable time to games like Balloon Fight and Wrecking Crew, after not really caring about them in the ’80s? Those opposing forces really conflicted me, and before I knew it, I was getting frustrated trying to relearn these old 8-bit games.

But as I’ve learned time and time again, stepping away from games can often bring me back with a more open mind. After spending more time with it, digging deeper into its many challenges, my appreciation for it has definitely grown.  While I still think that the game selection itself runs the entire quality gamut from poor to excellent, what the developer Indieszero has put together here is really quite impressive.

It’d be easy to say that they just wrapped a NES emulator inside another game engine, but when you stop and think about what it took to make all of this function the way it does, it’s pretty amazing.


As a sidenote, I think one of the best features of the Wii U is the Miiverse, with its individual game communities, excellent player interaction, and what was introduced first in Super Mario 3D World: stamps.  NES Remix‘s implementation is cool in that you not only earn stamps and can use them in Miiverse posts, but they are displayed to other users, including best times and star ratings. Some of the scores I’ve seen from other players have been very impressive, as is the artwork I’ve seen. There are some incredibly talented artists out there, and I love discovering them.

My meager attempt — like the one pictured here — is just a tiny example of how you can blend hand-drawn pictures with stamps. It’s a lot of fun, the community seems to do a good job of policing itself, and the Wii U GamePad works surprisingly well for drawing.


I still have a considerable ways to go before I get 3 stars on everything, but even at this relatively late point in the game, I keep running into little fun surprises. For example, you can buy the old games featured in NES Remix on the eShop. That’s not the cool part, though. What’s cool is they created this fun Legend of Zelda-themed screen before taking you to the store. It’s a great touch that they didn’t really need to put in there, but they did anyway.

NES Remix also does a really good job of rolling out new content and challenges to the player constantly. Every time I think I’ve unlocked the last game, a new one pops up, or more Remix stages appear, and there are surprises beyond that. I loved the way Turn 10 did this in Forza Motorsport 4, and it’s just as effective and rewarding here.


I also like that there are embedded curve balls thrown into the Remix stages, so just when you think you know what you’re going to have to do, you’re asked to do things that you’ve probably never done in these games.  Those moments are the most memorable, like the one above where Luigi not only has to get through one of Donkey Kong‘s stages that has been flipped horizontally, but then make it all the way back to the beginning. Some of the other stages seem borderline unfair at times, but you can tell that the designers had a blast coming up with all sorts of ways to really mess with our decades-old muscle memory.

In closing, this has been my go-to game for the past week. Whenever I have a few minutes, I’ll immediately turn this on and collect several more stars. It’s great being able to do everything from the GamePad too; this is precisely the type of title that’s perfectly suited for it. Although I still can’t get over how bad the controls are in games like Ice Climber, Urban Champion, and the original Mario Bros. (non-Super), this is still a great compilation that will make you look at the NES era in entirely new ways.

  • Graphics & Presentation: B+
    Classic sprites with subtle touches in the Remix stages, like drop shadows that add depth. Nice interface, good Miiverse integration, and a terrific loading screen give it a polished feel.
  • Music & Sound Effects: B
    Clean, crisp audio, plus some new music and interface sound effects. You’ll likely get very tired of hearing the Miss and Game Over sounds, though.
  • Gameplay & Controls: B+
    The games are preserved here and play just like you remember. They also control just like they did in the ’80s, which is to say that some are good and some are bad. Lots of content rewards throughout keep things fresh.
  • Value: A+
    $15 seems steep, but there are over 200 challenges to complete, and they will keep you busy for a long time, especially if you go for the perfect rainbows. Good Miiverse integration keeps you chasing those high scores.

Overall: B+



A Second Chance: NES Remix (Wii U)


Back in January, I played NES Remix and gave it an unenthusiastic B-, citing its good ideas but ultimately lackluster selection of titles. I played through a good chunk of it, but gave up before going through the entire thing.

A few of my friends later told me that they had similar experiences with it initially, but that something clicked with them, and they ended up really enjoying it. I’d been through this before with the Dragon Quest series, which I had absolutely couldn’t stand for most of my life until I fell in love with it two decades later on the Nintendo DS. It’s for similar reasons that I haven’t parted ways with Final Fantasy XIII, Metal Gear Solid 4, Demon’s Souls, and many others. They’re all games that failed to click with me initially, but might later in life.


Also, with NES Remix 2 now available with bonuses, a seemingly better selection of games, and more robust features, I thought now would be a good time to give the original another go to see if I was simply too quick to judge.

After having played through a couple more hours of it, several things are standing out for me:

20140606_wiiu_nes_remix_gpFirst, playing it on the Game Pad is great. NES Remix feels like a game that is more at home on a handheld instead of a TV, since the bite-sized gameplay is just better on the small screen. It’s also nice to step away from the TV, lay down in bed to relax, and play through a few stages at a time.

This makes the game so much easier to pick up and play whenever you want, and with Nintendo’s latest June 2014 Wii U update, the new Quick Start menu makes getting into it — and all other Wii U games — a lot faster.

When it’s a big part of a game’s design, I can be rather compulsive about collecting everything, or getting the highest rating possible. In NES Remix, the best rating you can get in each of its mini-games is 3 stars with a rainbow outline.


This urge to achieve the best results can be — and has oftentimes been — my undoing. It’s one of the main reasons why I don’t finish most mobile games based on this scoring system, such as Cut The Rope, Angry Birds, and others. I’ve always said that if a game ceases to be fun, then you should just stop. However, sometimes I need to realize that it might not be the game that isn’t fun, and instead my own stubborn tendencies turning what should be a fun experience into a chore.

In NES Remix‘s case, I started playing the game earlier this year with the intent on rainbow 3-starring every stage, but that quickly became an exercise is frustration that pushed my patience to the limit, fueling my negative impressions of it. So this time, my goal is to simply 3-star the rest of the levels, and you know what? I’m OK with that. Life will still go on, with or without those rainbows.

20140606_nes_remix2I’m also not feeling so strongly anymore than the game selection isn’t good. True, seeing the first Super Mario Bros. here yet again feels like a retread in the worst possible way, but the manner in which you have to actually play it makes it feel like something completely new.

In many cases, you’re asked to do things you never thought about doing, sparking ideas about untapped gameplay potential in each of Nintendo’s franchises. It’s really cool when you stop and think about what the developer Indieszero crafted here.

It’s kind of fun playing games that I never grew up with too, such as Balloon Fight. It’s Nintendo’s take on Joust, and while the controls are strange, the challenge requirements force you to get used to them quickly. The variety also gives otherwise very average games like this one a modern achievement-focused approach, which is cool.

So here I am, now enjoying a game that I initially thought was quite mediocre. It might not be the instant classic that WarioWare, Inc. was on the Game Boy Advance over a decade ago, but it definitely shows how small design and goal tweaks can energize games of a bygone era.