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Starman DX
So what if it's been three years since the last post. I've been bored lately and felt like doing some website stuff, so I decided to put some time into updating Fourside.

Round one happened around February 18th, and involved updating the site hosting and code to PHP 7.1. Nothing too serious but it may have improved loading speeds and memory use a little bit.

The second round of updates happened February 22ndish and had me combining many mysql queries into single mega-queries on a few pages. It had been on my "to-do" list for many, many years, but for the longest time the solution seemed impossible. After several days of persistence, however, I managed to figure it out! (I also realized I wasn't using my indexes to their full potential.) Not sure if it'll cause any tangible improvement on the site, but it sure feels good to have finally done it.

Round three landed maybe February 26th. Ever since this layout was created, back in 2010 or whenever, the site has been using tables and images to create rounded edges, which is a pretty terrible way of doing things these days. So I went through and updated most of the pages with extremely sloppy CSS layouts and styles. It's still far from perfect, and a few pages still use tables in some spots, but it's probably better than it was.

Then today was the "final" round! (Final aside from any bugs or tweaks I might do in the next few days.) For this one I created a little modal system in Javascript, and replaced the many slow-loading pop-up windows with it. I remember first attempting it back before 2010, but gave up cause it was tricky and I though it might be too big a change. Well this site couldn't be more dead, so there's no longer any harm in big changes. So far it seems to work alright, and I'm quite happy with it! (Please let me know if you see any bugs though.)

And that's about it! With any luck this'll have given me my web development fix for at least a couple weeks.


Starman DX
Once again it's that time of year when highly skilled gamers play through great games quickly on in order to raise funds for charity.

Check out the schedule to see when your favorite games will be played and then tune in to be amazed by feats of skill. (The schedule isn't actually working at the moment, but I'm sure it'll be back soon.)

Donations this year are going to the Prevent Cancer Foundation so don't forget to give a few bucks or buy some AGDQ2015 merchandise. (Not even a day in and they've already raised $87,600!)

[ Awesome Games Done Quick 2015 ]


Starman DX
Nintendo released a brand new Nintendo Direct for Super Smash Bros for Wii U tonight with 50 (actually more) amazing facts about the game. It's narrated by the voice actor that does the game's announcer and he injects a huge amount of excitement to an already fantastic unveiling.

I was feeling a bit of anticipation for this game previously, but now I have to admit that I can barely wait for the release. (November 21st by the way.) I can imagine this is gonna be the party game of choice for many players for a very long time. The amount of content is just staggering! I'd say the 3DS version has more content than I will ever have the time to experience, but Super Smash Bros for Wii U has gotta have at least four times as much stuff!

[ Nintendo Direct - Super Smash Bros for Wii U ]


Starman DX
The 3DS received an update today that enables themes! I was pretty sure these won't gonna show up for a while, so it was a bit of a surprise.

By default there are a few color variation themes, which are actually kinda dull, but there are a whole bunch of more stylized, or game related themes in the "Theme Shop" for $0.99 or $1.99. I'm totally gonna get an Animal Crossing theme to match my Animal Crossing 3DS. (Sadly, they didn't launch with the Animal Crossing theme, but that's alright, I'm used to waiting.)

The system update isn't just about themes though, it also features:

• You can now take screenshots of your Home Menu. (To help promote theme sales I guess?)
• The old brightness menu has been updated to give you quick access to your themes, the 3DS image share and the system settings.
• The eShop product page layout has been updated. It's different, maybe better.
• You can now access those top Home Menu options with the controls. (But it takes two taps instead of one if you still use touch.)
• Various improvements to system stability!

I can't actually find any information about the American theme selection, but here's a link to the Japanese 3DS themes page.


Starman DX
Fatal Frame for Wii U (Zero: Nuregarasu no Miko) came out in Japan yesterday and someone has posted a video of the first thirty minutes of gameplay on YouTube.

There's a little bit of slowdown at times, and some really sudden transitions, but otherwise it looks really nice and seems pretty creepy. The whole photograph taking mechanic also seems to be a great fit for the Wii U Gamepad's screen and accelerometer capabilities.

I haven't actually played any of the previous Fatal Frame games, but I love scary stuff so I'll definitely buy it if Nintendo of America decides to release it here. The Wii U could really use more games like this.

[ 零 ~濡鴉ノ巫女 Fatal Frame Gameplay - Source ]


Starman DX
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow -- Mirror of Fate is the new 3DS Castlevania title being developed by Mecurysteam/Spain and published by Konami. The demo was just released today, and even though I've yet to hear anything really positive about it, I thought it would be best to give it a spin and form my own impressions.

What did I come away with? Two main things:

One: The Castlevania series has been around for about 20 years now, and has plenty of distinct gameplay elements. Unfortunately, only the elements that it shares with the God of War series are present in this game, which plays exactly like a 2D Lords of Shadow. Very disappointing to fans of the fast paced, customizable, explore-based gameplay and progression of the more recent handheld Castlevanias.

Two: TEST YOUR GAMES! To be honest, I wasn't able to finish the demo, because I came across a bug that prevented me from getting through a door set off by a timed event. Not sure if this happens consistently, but if you die while racing to the door after having switched a lever, you start at the lever "switched" with the door permanently closed. Even tried leaving and re-entering the area, still bugged, no fun.

So as you may have guessed, I'm not at all impressed. While it does do a good job of being a quality portable God of War rip-off, the demo lacks any real sense of being a Castlevania game. I'll expect the full retail game won't do anything to change my mind on this.

Some of my other "impressions":

- Most of the text feels awkward; as if it had been written by someone who doesn't speak native English. Hiring a good proofreader may have helped to avoid sentences like: "A quick fall to ground that can be used to avoid enemy aerial attacks." Not to mention that all of the move descriptions read like they're out of the game feature specification.
- Jumping controls are super floaty, even more so than SOTN. You can jump about 3 times your height by default, and additionally have access to a double-jump.
- Fairly long loading times between small environments. Sometimes the borders aren't well defined, so it's easy to accidentally wander into a new area.
- The graphics are actually quite nice, though very dark. I only really fought skeletons, but they could have been zombies for all I could see of them. Trevor face design is a little odd, and stuck in a weird expression in the cinematic scenes, and the GOW-like brutal kill scenes.
- Music? Didn't notice it.
- Controls aren't very well explained as the game goes along. The control menu indicates L as being "Block/Synchronized Block", but it also functions as your dodge button. You can use this to awkwardly roll around everywhere, and do air dashes like in Megaman X.
- Quick time events. Fail em and you die. Probably my least favourite gameplay element from any game ever created.
- There's another bug, on that same switch part mentioned above. When you switch the lever, the game pans the camera over to a door opening, and then zooms back to where you were. If you switch the lever, and then jump to the right before the camera pans, the game seems to continue your jump. When it zooms back your character will be down at the bottom of a pit, and you'll be confused on how you got there. There's probably lots of places in the game where this could happen.
- The 3D effects... are actually really well done.

So there you have it, no reason to be excited. I hate to be so brutally negative about a game that really is quite well made, but the Castlevania series holds a very special place in my heart, and really deserves better than to become just another God of War clone.