Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Queen of Kong: For a Few Brawlers More

Amidst laying in bed coughing, watching hella Lost and dragging myself off to a few job interviews, I also watched The King of Kong this past week. What a neat little movie. Of course, my interest in video games probably made it more enjoyable, but in fact, I'd recommend it to just about anyone, as it's not just about going for the all-time high score in Donkey Kong. It's about the personalities of two distinctly different people. Steve Wiebe is a likable hero and underdog anyone can root for, and Billy Mitchell, with his hilarious tendency to spout self-aggrandizing statements with the affect of a zen monk, is, to me, a compelling and amusing villain of sorts. "I'm the most seasoned person in the hot sauce chicken wing business."

The movie did make me want to play some arcade-perfect Donkey Kong. DK was always one of my favorite arcade games, and I still think it's one of the very best games of all time. It's so rare for games these days to test one's skill on anything resembling that level. For instance, I got 100% completion in Burnout Paradise this past week as well, but as much as I love that game, I don't feel there's any sort of accomplishment involved there. Just about anyone, if they put enough (read: way too much) time into it, can get 100% completion in Paradise. But you and I could play Donkey Kong for hundreds of hours and never get to the level of play at which people like Wiebe and Mitchell compete. Still, I'd love to have a go and see what my own personal best high score could be.

Unfortunately, inexplicably, there's pretty much no legal way to play arcade-perfect Donkey Kong short of dropping upwards of a thousand bucks on buying a DK machine. You'd think, especially with the film, that there'd be some level of interest in the game that Nintendo could capitalize on to make a few bucks, but the only version readily available right now, via the Wii's Virtual Console, is the NES version, which sucks. It doesn't have the How High Can You Get? screen or the "pie factory" level, so it ain't really Donkey Kong. Of course, plenty of people have bought Donkey Kong on the Virtual Console, because they don't know any better or don't care. It's the same reason so many people go to Starbucks. (The arcade version of Donkey Kong was included in Rare's 1999 Nintendo 64 game Donkey Kong 64, but even that version alters the flow of the game's levels a bit.)

Ah well. I have at least spent some time today playing a Nintendo game, the insanely hyped Super Smash Bros. Brawl. If you're not familiar with this series, the SSB games involve a roster of characters from Nintendo's storied history...Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, and so on...smacking and kicking each other in environments that are also taken from Nintendo's storied history. They're basically Nintendo's big love letter to itself, and as fan service, they're outstanding. As a Nintendo fan myself, I admit I got caught up in the hype and excitement leading up to the game's release. The thing is, as games, despite a multitude of rabid fanboys across the internets declaring Brawl the best game ever, they're just so-so. Playing SSB has reminded me of David Cross' story about having a good time at a Harlow concert until he had a realization. "Wait a second. I hate Harlow."

I don't hate Smash Bros., but it's just really basic. There isn't enough depth to the gameplay to make it rewarding or interesting for me. The only fun I really had with the previous game in the series was when I had a few friends over who were up for some mindless button-mashing fun, because the games are definitely good for some laughs. Especially if a few drinks have been had. Brawl does bring online play to the series so perhaps I'll wrassle up a few friends online and get some mindless enjoyment out of the game that way. And the game is full of awesome unlockables, like the ability to play the lame NES version of Donkey Kong for THIRTY SECONDS! Rad!

Anyway, Lost. Yeah, I finally decided to see what all the fuss is about with that show, seeing as how ABC has put all the episodes up for viewing on their website. The only drawback of watching them on the website is that I have to keep sitting through an ad that makes the mind-boggling claim that, with the inclusion of "stars" like Adam Carolla and Steve Guttenberg, this season of Dancing With the Stars is going to be HOTTER! STEAMIER! SEXIER! than ever before. Yeah, that Adam Carolla is a sexy, sexy man.

What I like most about Lost, not surprisingly, are the elements that feel like something out of an adventure game: the Dharma Initiative stations on the island, the button that may or may not need to be pushed every 108 minutes to save the world, stuff like that. (Also not surprisingly, Lost has just been turned into an adventure game. By all accounts it's a middling game, but I'll probably give it the ol' GameFly whirl anyway once I'm all caught up with the show.) What I don't like about it is how maddeningly little information it doles out in any given episode, but I guess that's how you keep people tuning in.

In other news, I'm stoked about, the new site from former GameSpot dudes Jeff Gerstmann and Ryan Davis. Not much there yet, but I think when it explodes onto the scene this summer, it's gonna be pretty awesome.

Finally, the job hunt continues. I've had two interviews recently. One of the two jobs is considerably better than the other but beggars can't be choosers. Thank-you cards have been sent, follow-up phone calls placed, and the scouring of craigslist goes on.


Emiroo said...

I loved the King of Kong for all the reasons you mentioned. Surprisingly, my semi-gamer wife loved it even more than I did. Neither one of us could believe that Steve's wife would put up with everything and that she didn't just take a shotgun to the machine. And I wonder if Billy really is that ugly. He looks normal until he "smiles" and then it looks like he is high/constipated and it pains me to look at him! And at the very end when he claims that "he is not familiar with Weibe's situation" I was absolutely livid. What an a-hole. Hope to see you online in SSB!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the film recommendation. I'll have to give it a whirl.

Wooooohoooooo... you finally decided to give LOST a chance! Its a horrible addiction. I'm waiting for tonights episode with bated breath. I agree with you wholeheartedly, each episode is painfully secretive. I find myself grabbing the arms of my couch and squeezing them with frustration during every episode.

I read the review of the LOST Via Domus in the latest issue of Game Informer - which arrived yesterday. The reviews are excellent, so long as you're addicted to the television show. In fact, the reviewers state that you must play it if you like LOST, because it will suck you in. The article mentions that a great deal more information is revealed in the video game about the island and the events that occurred than on the actual television show. That makes this game a must play for me. I haven't had an opportunity to rent or buy it yet. But you can bet I'll get my hands on it sooner or later. :o)

Colby said...

King of Kong was great. I got the privilege of seeing it in a theater when someone at my school screened it last month. I looked up the high scores after I saw it, and it turns out Billy rebeat Steve's high scores in person a month or two later.

At this point I know Smash Bros. Brawl won't be my favorite game ever, but I enjoyed all the collecting in Melee and the multiplayer experience as well. I don't have a Wii, but I'll certainly pick up Brawl once I get around to getting a Wii.

I'm glad you're catching on to LOST -- once you catch up, let me know so we can talk about it !

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