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May 30, 2014

WarioWare: Touched! (Part 1)

Yay, microgames!

Anyway, this is one of the funniest video game series, but also one of the weirdest. It might not be Rabbids-level of silly, but it can get very close to it. The WarioWare series has one of the most innovative concepts I've seen on the side of Nintendo. Sure, after seven games it's lost of its novelty, but it's still creative enough. It remains fun for a long while.

What are microgames? It's the WarioWare formula. Each character in the series is a developer at WarioWare, located in Diamond City. Wario's the greedy boss, everyone else is either a comic relief, has another job or is just so bizarre that he/she fits in with the rest of the gang. Every character creates about twenty microgames, and Wario sells them. The franchise started with WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! On the Game Boy Advance. Today's game is the fourth one released in the franchise. WarioWare Touched! features all the things you can do with a Nintendo DS. It's very fun to play.

You are probably wondering how exactly I'll review this game. I mean, each character has a short storyline with a series of microgames in-between, and that's all! Well, there's an intro and a conclusion, so that does give it a bit of a plot, even if it's small. Let's not waste any time: This thing is not a microgame, so there's a lot to talk about!

May 27, 2014

20,000 visits! Thanks everyone!

The video game review blog Planned All Along has reached a new milestone on May 26th, 2014, around 8:00 PM.

It has officially reached 20,000 visits!

No, really, look!

I would like to thank everyone who helped reach this milestone, including the three Google+ communities where I post a link to every article; the That Guy With The Glasses forum and the Brawl In The Family forum; the few from the ComicFury forum who came to read my blog; my Facebook friends who somehow cared enough to take a look once in a while; and everyone else who stumbled upon this blog while doing a search on Google.

The blog's first anniversary will be on July 19th. On that day, and on the weeks preceding and following it, I will publish a five-part review that will cover a fan favorite game. Not saying which one, but if you can see the results of the poll, you can guess what it will be.

Also on July 19th, the blog will be completely redesigned and ameliorated. Tired of seeing this purple color on the background? I was thinking about changing it too! For this, I've been in contact with user LeRenardRoux from ComicFury (by the way, go check her comic out; it's called The Wolf at Weston Court, and it's beautifully drawn. It also got a spin-off). She did a few things for this blog, including a new background image.

...Among other things. What else did she do? What will be used in the re-design in July? Will the title also change? What else will be added? Will I run out of question marks?

Keep coming back to Planned All Along on the next months, and you'll see some of these questions finally answered!

May 26, 2014

Cartoon Network Racing DS (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

Whoa! I never thought I'd need two parts for this review! Well, it happens sometimes. I have so much to say that I get carried away, I put more details, I put in an analysis or my two cents... and before I know it, the review isn't 2,000 words long, it's 4,000. Well, gotta live with that. Where was I now... Oh, right! I was now at describing how the gameplay goes!

For starters, there's two things added to Cartoon Network Racing that are NOT in Mario Kart: Coins and Stars.

No, not those. And yes, technically there IS a Star in Mario Kart and there used to be coins, but... it's not the same things.

Nope, not like the ones in the skies either.

There is one Coin hidden on each of the 16 tracks in CNR; its value increases with the speed of the Cup you're currently playing. Those are sometimes well-hidden or put in places where you would have problems getting to them without getting a few places back in the race. However, they prove to be a very good source of income for the game's shop. I'll discuss this a little later. The other change is the Stars. Under the number of laps you've completed, there's bar that is empty at the beginning of each race. When you collect a Star (there's 5 on every racetrack; some are well-hidden), the bar fills up a bit. If an opponent hits a trap you've set up or you attack an opponent successfully, it also fills up a bit, less than with a Star. When it's full, you gain access to that character's ability! Each character has a special ability, and it's named differently for each one, though the effects are often similar. Some will gain a constant speed boost until the bar is empty again; others will be able to attack the other racers around them a few times. Most of the time, the superpower is a reference to the series the character came from. As an example, Bubbles of PPG fame can use a sonic scream to hit her surrounding opponents. Now that's a pretty damn cool idea. What's more, the CPU racers cannot use those abilities, so you have an advantage. Those two gameplay mechanics are very cool, and I'm happy that they're in the game.

So, after you've completed three laps in a course, your performance is given a score, 10 if you arrived in first place. And it goes on for four courses, on a maximum of 40 points. At the end, if your character arrived in first, second or third place, he appears on a podium, and the next Cup is unlocked. But if you ever played a racing game, you knew all that. Also, after you've completed a cup, you unlock its four courses in a Time Trial Mode, in the speed that you've beaten the Cup in (Normal, Souped-Up, Soupered-Up, Flipped-Out). You also have to beat the best time on every course, meaning you have to do each course four times, with progressively faster karts, and with a time that becomes a little harder to beat for each one.

What Cartoon Network Racing lacks, however, is a complete mode for those who want to play with others who don't own the cartridge. It's possible for those who have the cartridge to pick their character and pick a course to play on; but if you play over wireless communication with other players who don't have the game, there is only one race track to play on, Dexter's Laboratory to be precise. Also, I should mention that there's no Battle Mode at all in this, which means you can race against your friends, but there's no additional mini-games like the balloons thing from Mario Kart.

A little race down Dexter's lab, anyone?
But what's fun with this game is that it's filled with nostalgia. It represents each one of the six series, and you can try to guess which series each course comes from, and sometimes what the reference might be (since the courses are filled with hazards that may reference the cartoon series the course is based on). Again... *sigh* like Mario Kart DS. Dammit!

However, this game works a little different once you unlock the Souped-Up speed. You see, there's a Shop in the game, and when you finish a course, you get an amount of coins. If you want to use one of the game's racers in the Souped-Up speed, you have to buy an Upgrade for it in the shop. This means you have to spend a bit of in-game money if you want to get access to that character on the harder difficulty settings. That's kind of an innovative idea, as I don't remember any other racing game that did this. The cost is not very high, so you can access the racers in the next difficulty fairly easily. You need to do the same once you unlock the Soupered-Up difficulty; but again, the cost isn't too high and you'll be able to pay that upgrade for almost all the unlocked characters.

Of course, they are but distractions from the
racing games and your aching thumbs.
Also in the shop, you can unlock alternate themes for the main menu (instead of being stuck with a yellow-orange-ish theme, you can also have a blue and a purple one), as well as two mini-games and three cartoons. Wait, what? Mini-games in this racing game? Eeyup! The first one you unlock is also my favorite: Sketchbook. It's a mini-game in which you have to re-draw over the black lines of the characters, using the stylus. Each time you fill 75% of the grey zones, you beat that “sketch” and you get a score based on the remaining time. Do that until you finally lose, which could be never if you get realy good at it. I love this mini-game, it really got me hooked the first time I played this game. It's an awesome game. The only problem is that there's only 20 different sketches, one for each playable character, all from the start. Which means that it spoils all the characters that can be unlocked in the game. Whoops. The second mini-game is, sadly, nowhere as good; it's curling with the original nine karts. Yeah, just that. Still, the Sketchbook one is great and it's a nice addition to the game.

The other thing you can unlock is three six-minute cartoons taken from those old Cartoon Network shows. The first one is “Dexter's Rival”, the one where Dexter meets Mandark for the first time and realizes he's better than him in every way; Mandark's only weakness being his crush on Dee Dee... The second one, “Telephonies”, is about the Gangreen Gang getting a hold of the Mayor's PPG-phone and sending the Powerpuff Girls on lots of quests and attacks on villains who were doing nothing wrong at the time. It's pretty darn funny. The last one, “Black Sheep of the Family”-

No, not this one. This one is a cartoon from Cow and Chicken, and it involves the two main characters welcoming their odd long-lost cousin, the black sheep of the family, into their house. He saves them from a crazy Red Guy by knitting him some pants out of his own wool, so I guess that makes him a friend. Whatever. Those three cartoons are pretty fun, a nice thing to unlock in this. However, the sound might be a little low, even with earphones. It often makes the dialogue a little hard to hear. That's a little downside.

Eternal protection? Sign me in!
Last novelty in CNR: Cheat codes. Yep, if you look for this DS game on Internet, you can find a few cheat codes that will be activated when you input them in place of your player name in the Options menu. The codes range from “unlocking everything” to “seeing the races at bird's view” (which, by the way, make it a little harder); one grants the player unlimited superpower energy, which means you can use it to see every character's superpower. However, each one of these codes also disables the game's saving feature, so you cannot do any progress as long as the code is working. It can help you at first, but you have to remove the code if you want the save feature to work again.

Yep, some calm courses. Like in that other series
of racing games. The more popular one.
Last thing, here's the sixteen courses. See if some of them remind you of a show or another; some are obvious, others aren't as much. Just try, for the Hell of it: Aron City Speedway, Death Rally, Desert Island Dash, Cow and Chicken's Track and Field (this one should be obvious), Natural Parkway, Dexter's Laboratory (obvious too), Snow Sunday Drive, Townsville Raceway, Middle of Nowhere, Wild West Backlot, Evil Glade, Strange Alien Race, Cross Townsville Traffic, Mount Rush Much More, Outer Space Chase (that one is a rip-off of the Rainbow Roads, BTW), and Mandark's Laboratory.

Aaaand... that's finally all I had to say about this. A long review, wasn't it? I didn't think it would be that long myself. Maybe I had a lot to say... and maybe it's the comparison with Mario Kart that made it so long. Well, at least I'm gonna spend less time talking about Mario Kart next time! Yeah...

Anyway, my verdict is that YES, this game took a lot of inspiration from the Mario Kart series. I can't hide it, the signs are obvious. Cups with funny names, each with four courses; three speeds and a mirror mode; a time trial mode; a multiplayer option; Items that are partly based on those from Mario Kart; special karts for each character; the ability to use a Rocket Start and to slipstream from behind an opponent racer; tons of references; a dynamic trophy handover. It's like this game was too heavily based on the series, the similarities are too obvious. That's a shame, because the creative stuff is also cool. I mean, nothing to make it an awesome game, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. But some people will immediately go for the resemblances with Mario Kart, calling it a cheap knock-off, a parody, a weak attempt at copying it.

Mandark's Lab is a mix of
Hell and technology. Badass.
But I think there's enough differences to make this game worth giving a try, even if only a little. I mean, for starters, it's very cool that you can control twenty different characters. Among the 16 race tracks, many are not quite as detailed as the ones in Mario Kart DS, but some are very creative. I DARE you to race in Mandark's Laboratory” and not feel awesome. It's like a technological Hell with black and orange colors everywhere, and then spinning parts and electric zappers... Holy wow, this is pretty cool stuff right there.

I think adding the two mini-games was a good idea (or, the Sketchbook one, at least), and it's also fun to have access to three cartoons. Though, to tell the truth, I think the three cartoons may be partly to blame for having less stuff in the game. I'm not a file size expert, but about 22 minutes of cartoons take a lot of data space, so maybe that's why the game isn't as filled as we could have had.

A cow in a baby-buggy becomes Super
by putting on pajamas and keeping the
same vehicle. ...I've learned never to
question superhero origins.
Other than that, the stylized karts are cool, and I'd even dare say that some are creative, compared to all the karts in Mario Kart DS that at least make an effort to all look like cars. I mean, Muriel is driving her freaking armchair. How cool is that? It's that sense of over-the-top silly that seems to be missing from Mario Kart. I also like the changes to the formula that were made in CNR: Having to pay to gain access to your character in the later speeds of the game, the Star and superpower system, and the collectible coins. You'll usually be able to completely fill a character's superpower bar only once during a race, but it's awesome enough and can really help you get ahead. The superpowers themselves are often good references to the series; Cow from Cow and Chicken temporarily goes into Supercow Mode, as an example. It's also very cool that you can use cheat codes, even if they disable the save feature.

Sure, Cartoon Network Racing feels like a Mario Kart clone that didn't get everything right, but what it added is just good enough to make it worth trying. I totally understand all the complaints that go that way: I mean, I discussed each and every one of them in this article. Yet, by the end, I can't help but get enjoyment from this game, more than I've ever had with Mario Kart DS. (And before you ask, YES, the powersliding played a part in this decision.)

There. I hope you enjoyed this review of Cartoon Network Racing, and... seriously, I hope I will not have to review any Mario Kart game in the near future. Give me a year, okay? I might be able to do that in about twelve months. Tune in this Friday for another review, as usual!

...And hopefully I won't have to make any comparisons this time around!

May 23, 2014

Cartoon Network Racing DS (Part 1)

Raise your hand if you grew up with Cartoon Network.

Sorry, I don't see you. If you could see me, though, you'd have noticed I didn't raise my hand. Thing is, I didn't technically grow up with Cartoon Network as a kid; I grew up with its Canadian counterpart, Teletoon, which aired a lot of Cartoon Network series back in the day. So yeah, it was very similar. Since then, Teletoon started making its own series and exporting them... to Cartoon Network. There's a bit of irony here, don't you think?

Anyway, the game I'm reviewing today is for those who feel nostalgia for the early cartoons of this channel. Cartoon Network, not Teletoon.

Cartoon Network Racing DS should remind you of another series. I mean, it's obvious that I'll have to compare Cartoon Network Racing to Mario Kart. And I'll go a step further. I'll use Mario Kart DS to make this comparison. Same portable console, that should be fair. Many reviews say that the resemblances are really obvious; that's what we'll see today.

May 19, 2014

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards (Part 4)

Seeing as this is Part 4 of a very long review, I strongly suggest you go read the preceding three parts if you haven't yet: Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here.

Hello again? Yeah, still me. Still rambling on about a certain series and a video game adaptation that was made for it. Don't worry, it ends today. I've been re-reading what I wrote in the past two weeks and I came to a stunning realization: I know way too much about fanfiction. Okay, I've read a lot, I've also written quite a few – which is probably why I make fun of it so much; self-deprecation FTW! – but I'm also very able to write original stuff. And Heck, all my writing tips so far are about the don'ts of fanfic writing, which are just one step below the don'ts of real story writing. Okay, so... where was I... Oh, right! The finale!

This is gonna be epic. I mean, really epic. Like, so freaking totally epic that you won't believe it. You'll really see how far a card game can go. That is, not THAT epic, actually...

Indeed, not so epic...

What are we waiting for? Let's go!

May 16, 2014

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards (Part 3)

Part 1 can be read here, and Part 2 can be read here.

Hello again, and welcome back to my biggest review ever! If you think I'm done, you're sadly mistaken. If you hate Yu-Gi-Oh, you're in trouble, because I'm gonna spend this part and another one STILL talking about this. If you love to hate the series, though (or just find it very enjoyable to riff on), then you should be happy that I'm making fun of it... right?

Okay, enough chatter, I got Ghouls to kill- No? Then, beat up? No? Punch on the nose? Still not? ...Okay, alright! Defeat in a card game... Alright, I understood! God damn it! I still think everything in this series would be solved a lot faster if a weapon entered the equation.

"Oh noes! You used Lame Concept! I lost the duel and my social life!"

So... When we left off last time, we had news that Joey (the normal guy who relies way too much on luck; it's turned against him on a few occasions) and Téa (the moral support who does very little aside from being the cute token girl and talk about friendship) have gone missing. Like that was not enough, Ghouls have chased away most duelists, even most of the rather good ones. You know, just saying it out loud, I realize how utterly ridiculous this sounds: An evil organization using a children card game to achieve world domination. Eh... I'll roll with it because it's faithful to the original manga...

May 12, 2014

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards (Part 2)

Part 1 can be read here.

Welcome back to this long, long, LONG review of a Game Boy Advance game! I gotta admit, I really wanted to write that review earlier. I'm gonna show the full extent of my geek past: I collected Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I have read almost the whole first series (the one with Yugi as the protagonist). I watched the anime until the end of the Duelist Kingdom saga, the one that happened on an island and during which the game's rules were still a "broken, exploitable mess".

Yeah, things were simpler back then.
I mean, who would throw away Duel City
for another duel through a videotape?
I would!
I knew that I couldn't just make a small review for it. This game's plot is huge, and there's so much to talk about that I wouldn't have been able to keep it to two parts. Or three. No, I have to end the Game Boy Advance era with the largest review I could possibly write for a GBA game. This is it! I've been trying to make this review my masterpiece (until a future review takes its spot as biggest, best, greatest review I've written).

So, where were we last time? Oh, right. Orange Cap Boy (which I nicknamed Nikorasu; it's got more dignity than LEGO Brick) has just defeated the lame-ass Esper Roba and Bakura. As he heads right, he sees that Bonz, the zombie wannabe, has been kicked out of his graveyard. By who, you may ask? By a Ghoul. No, not a real one, just another lame-ass character who decided that being a villain would be fun. So Nikorasu defeats the villain and makes him run away. Bonz rejoices and quickly heads back to his resting place.

May 9, 2014

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards (Part 1)

Oh YES! This is the final Game Boy Advance game in my collection! I've kept the best – and the worst! – for last! Hell yeah, this is gonna be one awesome review, I tell ya!

First off, a little history. You all know the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise, right? It's that bunch of losers playing a card game against other losers. ...Okay, I'm a little harsh. It's the story of that guy, Yugi, who assembles the legendary Millenium Puzzle, an artifact from the Egyptian era. This puzzle contains the spirit of a Pharaoh who strangely looks like him, and that second Yugi (named Yami Yugi for the sake of having a name) takes over Yugi's body whenever his host is in danger. Did I mention that Yami enacts revenge by challenging his enemies in dangerous games? At first it was all sorts of games, but by the ninth book in the manga it became pretty much strictly a card game: “Magic and Wizards” as the manga called it, or “Duel Monsters” as the anime called it, to be precise. The card game was renamed Yu-Gi-Oh later, as an homage to the series.

BTW, gonna ruin it right now;
the second Yugi leaves at the end.
The first manga series had over 35 volumes, and got a cult following thanks to the card game de-fictionalized, the anime, the hammy and weird feel of the series, and of course the three sequel series that followed it (that is, GX, 5Ds and Zexal). Oh yeah, it's also the anime series that led to the creation of the Abridged parody format thanks to Matthew Billany AKA LittleKuriboh. This innovative parody format got so popular that a bajillion Abridged series appeared afterwards. Of course, for any good series, there has to be a tie-in video game. As you can guess, the Yu-Gi-Oh! series has had a lot of video game adaptations, because a card game like this really translates well to video games. Or... well... In some cases, anyway.

One major arc of the series was Duel City, which spawned from Books 17 to 31 of the manga, had one of the most awesome villains in the entire franchise, and was overall a lot of fun. Yugi's rival Kaiba settled a whole card game tournament in Domino City, where most main characters live. Kaiba's plan is to get his hands on three God cards that would make him the King of Games. However, two of those are in the hands of an evil organization called the Ghouls, who... do their terrorism... through card games. Hey, I said it was hammy and weird, you knew what to expect! Of course, Yugi and his Yami join the tournament, along with their friend Joey, not a half-bad player himself. In this arc, Yugi deals with the evil Ghouls, which are cheating bastards, while Joey meets many previously-seen duelists who aren't half-bad either. Guess what? Both make it to the final 8. Also guess who defeats the leader of the Ghouls in the tournament's finale? Why, Yami Yugi of course! 

Phew, that was a long story recap. Can't wait to see it made into a game.

Who do we get to play? Yugi? Joey?

Sprites from The Spriters Resource.

...A nobody wearing an orange cap and shirt. What the Hell, really?

Ready to see me make a complete geek of myself in front of all of you? Well, wait no more, here it is! This is Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards, a game so great it's awesome in some aspects, and so bad it's good in other aspects!

May 5, 2014

New Updated List of Games

It's that time of the year again! Since the last list, in November 2013, my collection has grown quite a lot. Not to mention the amount of reviews that I've released since. Therefore, I think it would be better if I made the list of games that I own, those that I have reviewed so far and those that are to be reviewed.

By the way, with Planned All Along's first anniversary coming soon, don't forget to answer to the poll on the rigth side of the screen! Tell me which game or which theme month I should do in July 2014, amd what I should add to the blog for its first anniversary.

May 2, 2014

Top 12 Heartwarming Nintendo Moments

After last week, I needed some happiness. And though Nintendo does a lot of comedy (I'd need a Top 100 to list the best moments of comedy in the Nintendo franchises), it's also very strong when it comes to emotions. Nintendo makes you feel good. Okay, you could say that for almost any video game series. But Nintendo always finds ways to insert heartwarming moments in its video games. If you're really sensitive, those moments could bring a tear of joy to your eye. Here are 12 of those moments.

Please, keep in mind: Those are MY Top 12 heartwarming moments. Most of those moments, I have seen them in their respective games or I know they were touching to a lot of people. As a result, if there is something missing on this list, a moment that you really liked and that you wished you had seen here, well... Not only I need to keep it to 12, but I also had to pick among the many moments I remembered or those that seemed to bring the most emotions to me or others. If you don't see your favorite moment here, tell it in the comments! I'll be very happy to read about it. Also, be warned: Many of those moments refer to the endings of the games, so read at your own risk if you don't want to get spoilers.

Let's get this happiness party started!

(Out-of-character note: I really, really need this. As I was writing this review, I was playing Pokémon HeartGold, as I was about 90 species away from completing the Pokédex. However, I found out that my save file had been corrupted and, therefore, erased. Nearly three hundred hours of fun were taken out of my lifetime along with some of my real-life friend Laura's favorite Pokémon that she traded to me, some exclusives she got who knows when. As a result, as I wrote this Top 12, I felt extremely saddened. Therefore, excuse me in advance if this article is not the funniest. Even though it had been planned for a while before this happened, it's still a very heartbreaking thing to see all your efforts amount to nothing because of a glitch. That was April 11th. Even at the time this article is posted, I might still be very bitter about it. Please don't mind it too much, but... Yeah, I need something to make me happier again and make me forget that I lost over two hundred fucking hours to a game that glitched on me. Wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't spent so long playing it, spent so long trying to get everything... and I had nigh everything I could catch in it, I was one - catchable - Pokémon away from succeeding! But... Damn. Look, please enjoy this list, I worked on it as much as I worked on my other Top 12s, so... to fully enjoy the moments listed here, please try to forget this lengthy paragraph and just be happy that Nintendo is really able to get emotions out of you with the stories in their games.)