I've been playing way too much Fire Emblem Heroes, so for my post this week I thought I'd write up my experience working at PAX East. I imagine my experience wasn't much different from other people's, but maybe some people will find it interesting.

I suppose my story begins with responding to a posting on a popular job site. The advertisement named the specific video game company, which is large, extremely well known, and had one of the biggest booths there (apparently they posted on Craigslist as well). Apparently it's not uncommon for companies to supplement their regular staff with temps. I responded on a whim. I'd been to PAX East before, and honestly am not that into conventions (I still don't quite see the appeal of waiting for hours in line to play a game that's coming out in a couple of weeks anyway.) Anyway, I had to write up a few sentences about my interest and also submit a resume. My actual day job is completely unrelated to working a booth at PAX, but I guess I was convincing enough about both having social skills and also knowing a lot about video games, and so I got a call from the recruiter pretty soon afterwards (I think the next day).

The recruiter basically just verified that I would be available for all three days, that I had authorization to be employed, and that I lived nearby. I then had to fill out a fair amount of paperwork online, and I still hadn't heard details about where and when I was supposed to show up even a couple of days before the Friday of PAX. The recruiter said I was definitely on the list of staff, but he didn't get the info until basically the day before PAX started.

I was instructed on what to wear and to show up on Friday promptly at 7:45 in the morning. The instructions were, understandably, super serious about showing up on time, so I actually got there half an hour early. They had given me the name of the person to meet, but they didn't say anything about what he looked like, where to find him, or what his phone number was. I didn't want to text the recruiter since based on his phone number I assumed he lived on the West Coast, so I wandered around until after 8:00 before finally texting him, and then I finally met up with the guy I was supposed to meet.

From there I got in line to get in with the other staff and temps (typical metal detector setup), and then finally we were in. They gave us some time to drop off our stuff in the staff room, get a staff shirt, and check out the games they would be showing. The assignments of the games each person was going to be demoing was fairly random. I have broad tastes in general and didn't have any strong preferences, but I was happy with the game I was assigned. There was another guy who was going to be demoing the same game as I, and one of the regular staff told us a bit about the game and why the demo was for that particular section of the game, but that was pretty much the extent of our training. Neither of us knew anything about the game, which was a sequel to a game that we also didn't know anything about, but it turns out that wasn't a problem because no one asked us about it. (This was better than nothing, I suppose, because the guy at the neighboring station didn't get any guidance whatsoever.)

The doors opened for the media at 9 and for the rest of the crowd at 10, and from there it was a non-stop stream of people trying out the game. We got two 15-minute breaks and a half hour for lunch (they got us sandwiches the first day, which were actually pretty good, and also free snacks and drinks). Manning the station was pretty easy. Our instructions were to kick people off the demos if other people were waiting, and I gave people roughly 15 minutes with the game, which seemed plenty (and people were free to come back for another round if they wanted). One snag was that people saved over what was supposed to be the demo's actual start point, but this wasn't too big a deal since there was a lot of stuff to check out in the game no matter where you started, and the game wasn't overly difficult even at those later stages.

The day was pretty uneventful, and the game was interesting enough that I didn't mind watching a hundred people playing it. The 15-minute breaks were too short to do much other than walk to the bathroom and back, although I did get to see a bit more of the main floor on my lunch break. Things ended promptly at 6, although there was an event for exhibitors soon after with free booze and some snacks. I walked around more of the floor then, although the line for the drinks was long and I was pretty tired from having gotten up early and standing all day so I didn't stick around.

I'd recovered enough by Saturday morning that I was ready for another day (although for Saturday we only had to arrive at 9:15 with the doors opening at 10). The guy I was working with on Friday apparently had a foot problem from standing so long the previous day, and he was replaced by another guy. The guy from the neighboring station was sick of his game, and I was happy to trade spots. I'd done some research on both games the previous night, although it took some time watching people playing for me to figure out what would give them the best experience with the game. Otherwise Saturday was more of the same, although my game was far less popular than the game I'd demoed on Friday. This was actually fine by me as I didn't have to spend nearly as much mental power keeping track of how long everyone had been playing, since there was rarely much of a line.

After the doors closed on Saturday I met up with some friends at the handheld lounge and hung out, and also swung by the free console play rooms a bit. I was starting to feel sick, but I thought it was just from being tired from being on my feet all day. It wasn't until I got home that I got really sick, and what followed was a bad bout of food poisoning and one of the worst 24 hours I've experienced in a very long time. Most likely it was from the food we had for lunch, although I'm not sure if anyone else got sick. In any case, I texted both the recruiter and the main point of contact at the booth and apologized profusely for not being able to work Sunday. The booth guy was sympathetic and understanding, and when I asked him about it on Monday he told me they hadn't been able to get a replacement in, but the other two guys were able to cover for me. (Sundays are less packed than the other days anyway, but I still feel bad for making extra work for the others. Sorry, guys! I owe ya one!)

All in all this was a fun experience, and one that I would be happy to do again. It's probably not great for people who just want a free ticket to PAX, but as someone who enjoys being surrounded by fellow video game lovers this was a pretty painless way for me to soak in the atmosphere of PAX, check out some cool cosplay, and get paid playing some games for a weekend. And who knows, maybe I'll even wind up back again next year! ;)

Apologies, but I'm in the midst of a incredibly long game right now and so I'm going to have to resort to blogging about yet another smartphone game (mea culpa, mea culpa). I figured now is as good a time as any to blog about Pokémon Go. There's no doubt that Pokémon Go is a cultural phenomenon and has revitalized interest in the 20+ year old franchise. I finally got a smartphone so I could see for myself what all the fuss was about, and overall I've enjoyed the simple mechanics. Compared to the actual games this doesn't feel too much like a watered down experience as the main mechanics are really about walking around to various PokéStops in order to try to catch rare Pokémon. Unlike the main games, you don't evolve Pokémon by levelling them up. Instead you have to catch multiples of the same Pokémon in order to trade them in for Pokémon-specific candies that will enable them to evolve. In practice this makes evolving Pokémon fairly slow since you have to catch the same Pokémon at least 25 times before you can evolve it, and some Pokémon are pretty rare to begin with. You can also collect candies by selecting a Pokémon as your "buddy" and walking around with it, but this is also a slow process.

With the recent update to add a lot of the Gen II Pokémon I'm definitely not going to be completing my Pokédex anytime soon. It's somewhat annoying that late starters like myself are going to have a more difficult time catching Gen I Pokémon, but I guess there wasn't much help for it. The other main aspect of the game, the gyms, seems pretty pointless to me (even Niantic has said that they need to be rehauled), but collecting and evolving Pokémon is still addictive fun and it seems the game is going to be staying in my daily rotation of games for quite some time to come. I don't see myself paying for any items any time soon, though, as I've been doing fine with the regular allotment of items. (Plus I can count myself amongst the many who are getting more exercise as a result of playing the game, haha.

Go forth with these Pokémon Go links:
- Official website
- Page at pokemon.com
- Details on how to interpret the in-game 'mon appraisals on pokemongodb.net, which includes a lot of other useful info
- Egg rarity chart on Reddit
- Entry at Wikipedia
- Review at NintendoLife

I'd heard about Muscle March even before it came out more than seven years ago, but I'd been a little torn about getting it even though it's only $5 since I knew it was a joke type of game and wouldn't have much longevity. I ended up giving in and getting it anyway. Although the game didn't exceed my expectations, as a joke game this one-trick pony still provides a lot of laughs, in particular when thrust upon unsuspecting friends.

The premise of Muscle March is simple: move the Wiimote and nunchuk in four different muscle poses to fit through silhouettes in a wall as you chase after a thief who's made away with your protein powder. The camp factor is sky high, perhaps only rivalled by the Cho Aniki series (which I haven't played, but have heard a bit about). The J-pop soundtrack is a draw, and two of the three settings (city and village) nicely evoke Japan as well (if you were wondering, the third setting is on a space station). The game only features nine stages, divided into groups of three. The third of each set is much tougher than the other two, and although practice may help, the lag between moving your arms and your character posing is significant. In its fastest moments getting by really feels more like a matter of luck than skill.

To round things out there's an endless mode that you can play single player or with up to three other people, each taking turns. In terms of finding out what the game's all about, watching a video online is pretty much equivalent to actually playing the game, but if you're looking for a game to shake up your gaming time with friends, this should definitely provide some wholesome and wacky entertainment.

Marching to a strange beat with these Muscle March links:
- Sadly, the official website is no longer up, but here's the page on Nintendo's site
- The game's launch trailer is awesome
- Apparently the game's soundtrack is available on iTunes
- The game's press release and ESRB rating summary are also entertaining. Apparently Bandai Namco also sent out speedos as a promo to reviewers.
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Review on NintendoLife
- Here's a cheat I found online (although I haven't tried it)

I played Retro Game Challenge last year to prepare myself for playing NES Remix, which was originally a Wii U eShop exclusive, but then combined with its sequel in a physical release called NES Remix Pack. For those who don't know, the game's premise is simple, which is to provide bite-sized challenges from classic NES games, much like the ones that appeared in the WarioWare series, with some remixes thrown in to change things up.

Much as I love the old NES classics, I was a little wary of NES Remix since I already own and have played through the vast majority of the titles. I knew my enjoyment of the title would depend on the quality of the remixes and, sad to say, they were underwhelming on the whole. The majority of the remixes make minuscule tweaks to the gameplay, with variations such as zooming in on part of the screen, or zooming out, or changing the colors to make things harder to see. Most of the changes were, frankly, not much fun, and the majority of the game consists of excerpts from the original games rather than remixes anyway.

The selection of games here is okay, although the original Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda games clearly get a lot of the attention and have way more challenges than the other games (too many challenges for my taste, actually, since I've played and replayed them to death already). I was way too familiar with the games in this collection, and I could see how people who haven't played these games a ton already would get a lot more out of it. Still, it was fun to revisit games I haven't played in ages (including the woefully underrated Clu Clu Land), and pretty much all of them were enjoyable (except for Ice Climber, whose jumping mechanics are even worse than I remember). The presentation is simple and clean, although I do have to say the new music is generally bland and definitely pales in comparison to the fantastic remixes in Art Style: Pictobits. The selection of games in NES Remix 2 is generally much stronger since it features games that were a little later in NES's chronology, but I can't say I feel motivated to play through it any time soon.

I thought I would tack on my comments about Amiibo Tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits while I was at it. Amiibo Tap came out a couple years after NES Remix and has a similar concept. It's a free download and offers what are basically demo experiences of classic NES and SNES games in the form of various time-limited sections of the games, but the catch is that you have to unlock the demos with unique Amiibo. It used to take more effort to unlock all of the games, but with the release of Amiibo cards unlocking everything becomes much more trivial. The selection of games is definitely better than NES Remix, although, again, for uber Nintendo fans like me this was just a curiosity and not really worth spending any time with.

With the release of the NES Mini (aka Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition) last year, interest in classic Nintendo games is clearly a moneymaker. That release is still hard to find, but it makes sense it would be more of a draw than those Wii U titles (although NES Remix 1 and 2 were edited down and combined into the single 3DS title Ultimate NES Remix). Anyway, these games did remind me that I should go back and play through some of those old NES games that I haven't posted about yet. Eventually!

Retro NES Remix links:
- Official website
- Miiverse community
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Review on NintendoLife

Retro Amiibo Tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits links:
- Page on official site
- Miiverse community
- Entry on Wikipedia

Yikes, yet another smartphone game! At least this one is one of Nintendo's. ;) As a long-time Fire Emblem fan, of course I was looking forward to the release of Fire Emblem Heroes. There was a lot of speculation about the form that the mobile Fire Emblem game would take ever since it was announced, and for the most part Fire Emblem Heroes seems to have been a success on all fronts. For one, it's pleased long-time fans (myself included). Although the mechanics are in general a simplification of the tactics of the main games, there are additions that make it a fresh experience. For example, the absence of the hit percentage and luck-based skill activation removes the element of luck, but there's a greater emphasis on buffs and debuffs (a continuation of the dagger/shuriken-based fighters introduced in Fire Emblem Fates) and also a greater emphasis on the weapon triangle (the series' version of rock-paper-scissors mechanics). Although the maps are all small and fit on an 8 by 6 grid, there's still a surprising amount of variety and playing on the same maps over and over again with different teams and enemies is still worthwhile. Each map is designed so that it can be played for just a few minutes, which is ideal, although the more advanced levels require use up a lot of stamina, the game's play meter that slowly recharges in real time (1 point for every 5 minutes of real time). The game is packed with familiar faces for long-time Fire Emblem fans along with a few new ones, and the art, music, and controls, not to mention a ton of writing and voice recordings, are all polished and up to Nintendo and Intelligent Systems' high standards.

Anecdotally it seems like the game has made a decent amount of money as well. The game lets you recruit characters with orbs, but it's a crapshoot which character you get and what rank it is (the highest being 5*). It seems like many fans have shelled out quite a lot of dough to get 5* versions of their favorite characters, and although I haven't spent any real money myself, I can see myself trying my luck further down the line when more of my long-time favorite characters are added. The complete randomness of recruiting characters is probably the biggest drawback to the game, although regular special events have given opportunities to recruit specific characters. These characters are often at extremely low ranks, however, and promoting a 4* character to a 5* character requires feathers, which are extremely rare, so much so that I haven't even been able to promote one 4* character. This makes sense given their need to make a profit and their main income coming from people trying to get 5* characters, but it does feel like a drag.

I don't know how well the game has succeeded in bringing in people to the Fire Emblem series, but aside from the lack of story and deep character development, the game does feel like a pretty faithful version of the Fire Emblem we all know and love. I've been playing the game incredibly obsessively since it came out three weeks ago, and I'm just now getting to the point where I feel I can wean myself away from it. I blitzed through the story mode (with each map being available in three difficulty levels), and I completely maxed out the two 5* characters I was able to pull. It takes a while to get a feel for how all the different items and currencies and parts of the game interact, but now that I've trained up a lot of characters I feel like I just have to stay on top of special events that give out orbs or new characters and can pretty much ignore most everything else. We'll have to see how the game develops over time, but so far the new story chapters they've released were pretty lame (on par with the original story chapters). I'm hoping that more of the series' great characterization (mostly provided by support conversations in the main series) will become part of future story events, but even without that I had a lot of fun with this game.

This year of Fire Emblem is off to a great start. I'm a little leery of the Fire Emblem Gaiden remake that's due out in a couple months, as I'm not sure how well those mechanics (particularly the very plain maps) are going to hold up, but I'm still looking forward to it. I'm also still pretty psyched for the Fire Emblem Warriors game, although the footage shown so far has been less than thrilling. In any case, I've got a lot of older Fire Emblem games to play and replay, so I'm looking forward to catching up a bit on those as well. Here's hoping that the Fire Emblem series continues its upward trajectory!

Noble and mobile Fire Emblem Heroes links:
- Official website
- Entry on Google Play
- Entry at Serenes Forest
- Results of the massive official Fire Emblem popularity poll
- Entry at fireemblem.wikia.com
- GameExplain video showing that the maps in Heroes are based on the maps of the main games (the wiki goes over those specifics in more detail for anyone who's interested)
- Review at NintendoLife