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Malik (1/15/07)  

I'll keep things pretty short today. Not because I have little time or something like that. I've just been too damned obsessed with FF3. I am now getting ready to enter the final dungeon of FF3, and that's saying a lot for me having only had this game since Wednesday night. I don't think any FF game has ever devoured my time as readily as this one. In fact, I don't think any RPG, from any franchise, has ever done such a complete job in destroying my will to do anything else.

I just want to say, as a diehard Seahawks fan, that I'm actually not too upset about Sunday's loss. True, that loss ended the season and now it will be another 8 months before I give a damn about football. However, considering the Seahawks forced the Bears into overtime was great. Plus, the game was just a fun one to watch on all accounts. It's just unfortunate that the Seahawks made a few too many minor errors that really piled up. Too many fouls came at vital moments, and too many opportunities were lost. In fact, I think the Seahawks could have tried an insane field goal attempt a few times at the end of the game and stood a good chance to capitalize. However, chances were missed and mistakes were definitely made.

2006 was a very unique season for Seattle. I hope to never see such a confusing season again, but time will tell on that. I just hope that 2007 brings a team that has a few less injuries on key players (and positions) and a little more consistency to victories.

On a final note before I go for the day, I saw Pan's Labyrinth this Saturday. This is one hell of an amazing movie. Of course, when it comes to Del Toro, that's no surprise.

The visuals were nothing short of amazing, but that was not the best part. The story and the acting in this movie were nothing short of the best I've seen for a long time. The main character (don't remember her name...actress or character) was skillfully acted. I don't understand why American child actors cannot be this talented.

Anyway, the plot was an amazing blend of real situations combined with a wonderful dark fantasy setting. I cannot recommend this movie enough. I think the only comparable plot style out there is the works of Neil Gaiman (especially the plot of Neverwhere or The Mirror Mask). I almost go geek- mad with strange fantasies of what would happen if Del Toro and Gaiman were to ever collaborate on something. It would be the greatest fantasy epic to ever grace the world (and yes, I don't find LotR to be anything ultra-amazing).

Speaking of which, Neil Gaiman's Stardust will be in theaters this July. It should be a nice dose of fantasy to get us all through until The Golden Compass (the first of the His Dark Materials trilogy) comes out in December. Throw in the new Harry Potter and it's looking like a very geek friendly movie long as you don't get hung up on the fact that the Fantastic Four are going to stink up theaters and the destruction of the Spiderman cannon in Spiderman 3.


Malik (1/17/07)  

Yesterday was another snow day for me. This is rather unusual since the Seattle area typically only gets one real day of bad (snowy) weather every year and a half. We've now had three in the last two months.

As usual with a snow day, I put everything away (including thoughts of going to work and thoughts of posting) and bundled up with a nice game. In the case of yesterday, it was my final hours of Final Fantasy 3 (DS) for the time being.

I have now finished FF3 as it was meant to be seen by American gamers. This was a bit of a surprise that I am done so soon since this is the first FF game I've played my first start-to-finish play though in a single week. I got the game last Wednesday evening, and I was completely done by Tuesday around 1 PM.

I will try to get a review written, if I find the time, but I will say a few hints of what I'd say in a review right now. First off, this is the best DS RPG out there, and possibly the best DS RPG we'll see. Besides the lack of saving almost anywhere (the last dungeon can be a 3+ hour trek through about a dozen bosses, after the final save point), this is a solid and fun game. If anything, the lack of saving only does two key things; it makes the game feel more authentic (since the original FF3 for the NES lacked saves in dungeons) and it makes the challenge level increase. In particular, you don't know when a boss is coming (no pre-boss save point), and if you fail then you have a lot of work to re-play through.

In the end, I would easily give this game a grade in the mid-9 range. This is a solid game, with a great updated visual engine, and with an amazing new soundtrack. Everything about this port of FF3 says quality. From the opening CGI movie (best damned DS visuals...ever) to the 3D engine used in the game, down to the character models, everything is beautiful. I could not recommend this game enough to any real RPG fans (not FFX or FF12 fans...I'm talking about FF1-6 fans, or fans of any real NES/SNES era RPGs)...well, besides the fact that you'll have to work to find a copy (I'd say try Amazon...but I'm not a fan of recommending that evil corporation).

Now I will finally have the will power and the time to try out Okami. I've had the game for a week now, and all I've done is open the package as I was too enamored by FF3 to do anything else. However, with one epic game slain, I'm free to enjoy another under-rated epic. I just hope this lives up to the massive cult-style hype.


Malik (1/18/07)  

I finally started to play Okami last night. I'm not too sure of what to think of this game...yet. It's the type of game that really doesn't give you a chance to get into it before you're basically thrown into a strange plot and a somewhat unique game system. In particular, unlike some games that force feed introductory lessons at the start of the game, Okami will give you have of the lessons and hope you can figure out the rest on your own.

In particular, since battles are not the most frequent occurrence in the game, there's a very simple fact that is overlooked in any introductions; what anything means in a battle scenario. The first time a fight happens, you are told to kill the bad guys and to win. You're also briefly told to use the square button to attack. Beyond that, I had no clue what symbol on the screen was my health meter (until I looked in the instructions), how the ink system works, and what the hell I was doing. In fact, that's how my first two hours of this game went; with much confusion.

Also, while it's an interesting system full of some great potential, it feels like the calligraphy system (you can use the Celestial Brush to draw in things on the screen to create magical effects) feels a bit imperfect. Beyond the obvious that the PS2 analogue sticks are complete ass (sorry, but compared to the other analogue sticks on the market, the PS2 is the worst of the lot), the game is sometimes a bit too finicky about how you draw something. When those two issues are combined, you can find yourself quite stumped, despite doing things "correctly".

Last night I was confused as to how I could help a certain peasant that needed help. The obvious solution was to use the brush to draw in their requested item. I tried about a dozen times and decided that that must be the wrong way to go about the problem. Later, when I quit for the night, I looked up the proper answer online (since this issue was eating me up), and boy was I glad to have looked it up...because that way I learned that I was doing things correctly and the game just wasn't recognizing my brush stroke. Blah!

Anyway, I still have a lot of playing to do before I can really judge this game one way or another...but I will say that there is a good chance I'll enjoy this game. I don't think it's quite as perfect as many people seem to think (not as close to perfection as I'd say Twilight Princess is), but it is definitely an innovative game that uses novel ideas for good purposes...not just to sell the game.

Also, to show that I'm not just being bitter, I will say that the plot is amusing (even funny) so far, and the visuals...the! This is why cell shaded visuals have never before taken off all that much. Too many games tried to use the cell shaded effects to make cartoon looking games. Okami does it perfectly by creating a work of art, instead of a work of animation. It's like looking at a living painting.

Anyway, I don't have much else to say today. It's been an interesting and long day, so I'll just drop off here...for now, that is.


Malik (1/19/07)  

It's nice to see that Bethesda is going to give the Oblivion expansion, Shivering Isles, to the 360 Oblivion owners. Instead of having a boxed retail version, like the PC version will receive, the 360 version will be a download on XBox Live. However, that could, in itself, be a problem.

Considering how Oblivion is the true definition of a single player offline experience, this will exclude some potential Oblivion owners and fans who simply don't have broadband (these people do exist) and thus will not have a way to get the download. Additionally, this will make the PC version look more tempting in a store, just because the expansion content will be in a box right next to the original game...not just be some magical pseudo-content that cannot be seen by the untrained eye.

Anyway, I guess the real question as of now would be the cost. How much will the 360 version of Shivering Isles go for on the Marketplace, and how much room will it devour of the already small HDD? Two good questions that, I suppose, only time will answer. In the end, however, this type of stuff, along with the fact that no user made mods are usable on the 360 version of Oblivion, is the main reason why having a game on both the console and PC formats can be an uphill least for the console version.

Anyway, I really don't give a flying f$#@ about this. Oblivion just wasn't the game it could have been. It was just too short of an experience (when compared to Morrowind). Also, the scaled levels found in treasures and monsters really ruined the experience for this geek. I think that it won't be until Bethesda announces The Elder Scrolls 5 (with release date) that I will take notice of Bethesda...or at least take notice with an interest in buying the thing. This type of experience is interesting, considering that I could play a game like Xenogears, which is more structured and linear, a dozen times over the years, yet Oblivion will probably never be played in my household again.

On a completely different note, I got in more time with Okami last night. In fact, I got in a lot of time as my plans for the evening went to crap. I can now say a few things with more conviction about this game.

First off, this is what I'd call the single best looking PS2 game ever made. You can call the "realism" of FFXII good looking, but the artistic renderings of Okami are what make me feel weak in the knees with giddy excitement each time I think of the PS2. In fact, I wish this game would have done better (it didn't do as bad as Beyond Good and Evil...but sales still aren't really enough to influence any the US, at least) just so I can see more of this wonderful and refreshing style. Five years from now, I can imagine that I'll still joy-gasm each time I start a new game of Okami.

Also, I think I'm more getting the hang of the controls. This is not the best use of the hardware at hand (the PS2 analogue nubs, that is). The celestial brush techniques require a little more skills than these controls naturally allow. However, at least it wasn't on the Wii with these bitchy of controls...since the annoyance of the game requiring perfection would not have gotten along with my shaky hands on a wiimote.

Still, I think I can manage with these controls. Plus, the overall fun factor of this game more than makes up for the frustrations. For example, I'm now at a point where I can create bombs, create trees, and slash at an enemy, all during battle, with a simple flick of the analogue stick. This is making each battle so damned fun since I have so many options...on top of being able to attack with a primary and a secondary weapon. It also adds some additional strategy since some enemies take better to less traditional of combat styles.

That's just for battles. When it comes to non-combat (the meat of Okami), there is just so much to do. The entire rebuilding of the world after it was devoured by darkness reminds me so much of Soul Blazer (off subject, that's a game that needs to hit the Wii Virtual Console!) or Dark Cloud. As you rebuild the world around you, you have new side missions and requests from people around you. You even have animals to feed, bonus areas to unlock (through extra combat), and some really interesting and endearing characters to meet.

In fact, the more I play, and the more addicted I become, the more I realize I was hasty yesterday (but I did say I was only gauging my reaction from two hours of playing, so I'm excused) in saying this game is not as perfect as many would like you to believe. In reality, this game is going to be overlooked by too many gamers, mainly due to it's novel art style and unusual setting (ancient Japanese mythology is not traditional American gaming fare), and that will be a giant shame. This game is almost as perfect as people have been saying. In fact, of the publications that called Okami the 2006 game of the year, my respect levels have been increased. Zelda was really damned good, and the same could be said of FF3 (DS), but Okami is, so far, nothing short of brilliant and breath-taking.

Anyway, before I joy-gasm again, thinking of this game, I will get back to this new addiction.


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