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Malik (1/19/09)

Yesterday was the first day of NFL football for the current season that I didn't watch any of. Even in a Seattle bye week, I had watched at least a little of some game. I was even hoping for Arizona to win and go on to the Super Bowl. They did make it, as well as the Steelers. In fact, this is a lot like a second take on Super Bowl XL (Seattle vs. Pittsburgh). Once again, the Steelers, with their long established legacy, are facing off against "who the hell is that...I thought the NFC West was just a rumored land of arena league teams". This time it's the Cards.

With the wackiness of Kurt Warner making a come back QB performance this season after looking dead for a few years, it's hard to say how the final game will go in two weeks. It could either be a blast watching two potential titans (who would have thought that could ever be said about the Cards?) or Warner could finally act his age and make for a game that will be boring and tedious to anyone not wearing black and gold.

I missed watching football this weekend since I was too busy being obsessed with other games. Namely LittleBigPlanet, Rock Band 2, and Valkyria Chronicles. Those are three games worthy of making me ignore the real world around me.

In particular, I downloaded the Metal Gear Solid add-on for LBP. It was well worth the cost of admission. It was also the first DLC I've bought for the PS3. I must say it's nice knowing what something costs without running some wacky calculations (if 80MP=$1, what am I paying for this add-on?) and in a menu system that actually lets me find the content I want. Yes, I am knocking the 360 and the Wii, since both have their online store issues. In particular the 360 Marketplace is a bitch to navigate now that NXE is making things a little more convoluted in the store.

Anyway, I played through and got 100% perfect on the MGS levels for LBP. Luckily it's possible to do in single player. I say that since I only really enjoy the multiplayer experience if the other player(s) is/are in the same room as myself. Since I'm usually lacking enough people to play some X3 and X4 areas (and even half the X2 areas), not needing multiple player for the MGS stuff is great.

Best of all, the final boss of the MGS level is a blast. In fact, I'd hate to play it with multiple people because it's too much like a combination of a finely choreographed dance and an all out back-to-the-wall shoot out. The only disappointing part was the final leg of the battle since there were, literally, no way to die unless you tried to purposefully off yourself. Still, because of the first few forms, getting that level aced is not something I'd ever think of being possible with more than a single sack boy present. There's just too much room for seeing your remaining lives go down the crapper.

Anyway, there's not much more to say beyond how much I'm looking forward to tomorrow's DLC for RB. Steve Miller Band and Rob Zombie...what more could I ask for that's not ska, Sex Pistols, or more Clash?


Malik (1/21/09)

Normally on a Wednesday I can be predictable. I'd talk about the new Rock Band songs, assuming there is anything interesting me. I'll keep that up, but only in a quicker style today.

The new Steve Miller Band songs are awesome fun, if you like this style of music. It's also, on expert guitar, fast and frantic across all the songs. A lot more involving than I expected them to be. As for the rest...I only really remember one other song (I didn't download the Ghost Hounds or Godsmack singles)...which says most of them are either not exactly my style in musical taste or the charts are dull...or both. That other song is the Rob Zombie song, which is fun...but quite easy until the solo. The solo is some frantic shit that will catch you off guard if you're not expecting it. For a sight read, you may want to hold some star power in case it's a little more than you'd expect...and if you can handle it, that star power will earn you some massive points in that crazy solo.

That's it for Rock Band DLC talk for today. I could jump into Valkyria Chronicles, which has devoured all free time I have offered to it. However, there's something I overlooked recently that I'd rather touch upon.

I haven't mentioned the Fable 2 DLC...which came up rather unexpectedly for me. It could be that there wasn't enough news about the real release date (since it did get delayed from December) or it could be that I no longer care. I think it's primarily the first one, since Fable 2 DLC does sound tempting to me.

However, tempting is not enough for $10. The DLC may offer a new area and some new weapons and clothes, but I doubt I'd give up on my character's current weapon (Daichi...or however it's spelled...with it's brokenly awesome power) and the clothes don't really mean much to me. What matters to me is the quests. It's also why I'm skipping the DLC.

If I got something like 8 quests, $10 would be a good deal. If I got 5 quests, I'd only feel slightly cheated of my money. However, for (what I've been told) three quests, $10 is not justifiable. I look at DLC usually like this; if a game gets something in DLC to extend the game play, then I will factor the price according to the original game.

For example, I bought the MGS DLC for LittleBigPlanet because it offered five new stages for about $6. That's larger than some of the worlds included in the game on the disk. The original game had around six worlds to explore, so each one cost around $10, not counting the game engine or the creation tools. Discounting those non-stage parts of the LBP disk, I could see each world costing around $6. So, $6 for a larger sized extra world, with a new tool (paintinator gun), is awesome.

Fable 2 had a shit ton of quests, including repeat quests that expand each time you finish a leg of it (like the archeologist quests). I don't know the number, but I'd wager it's well above sixty. It's been a while since I played Fable 2, so I just don't know the exact number. However, with even sixty quests and factoring in that the game engine must be worth something, each quest is worth far less than $1. So, to my eyes, three quests for $10 is a huge let down. Even with one more area, it's not worth it. Even with a few more pieces of equipment, it's just not worth the price. I cannot justify this price when I could use that same $10 for so much more on another game...or even in real life.

I should point out that my rule changes with Rock Band and RB2 since DLC songs work in both games (doubling the value) and I can chose exactly what I want. An in game song on RB2 may be worth less than $1, but I can chose what I really like without fear of hating the DLC (assuming a decent chart) because it let me down.

Anyway, I'm really tired as a type this, so hopefully I'm even making sense. I just want to say that while Fable 2 DLC would be a great thing in my eyes, I just need to know I'm getting the price I paid for it out of it in entertainment. I know I could knock out almost any quest in the original Fable 2 in a matter or about 10 minutes (or less...not counting loading times), so $10 is not something I'd want to spend on this little of content.


Malik (1/22/09)

A little bit of complaining today. There's just a few things on my mind I feel like airing.

First off, after playing Valkyria Chronicles for a while, I have the same complaint I used to have with Shining Force (another Sega SRPG/TRPG/whatever you want to abbreviate them to). It seems like the miss percent for your troops is a little out of balance versus the enemies. Yes, this can be handled (and I do get around it) with some strategy. However, it's a little frustrating when an enemy sniper can make three hits (from three rounds of sniper ammunition) in a round when your sniper (who is closer to his target) is missing on all three. The same goes for tanks and lancers. Hell, I've had every class in VC miss some insanely easy shot with no explanation.

My favorite is when the targeting circle (which shows where your shot may end up, hit or miss) doesn't even match the location of where your shot went. I had my tank aimed with it's circle fully enclosed around an enemy tank and yet I still couldn't hit it for that final bit of damage that would end that tank...instead my shot went off into the hills...

Like I said, this can be handled, but it still doesn't mean it's cool when you miss constantly and the enemy seems to hit about 75% more often than you.

Another complaint is about Lost. It was good to have new episodes but I have to say that the show is no longer going into that same realm as before. It used to be hard to explain, scientifically, but something could still be explained with some creativity. However, this time manipulation thing is going a bit far. There is no good explanation and I see myself growing quite annoyed if this isn't handled quite delicately.

Also, the whole separate groups thing reminds me a little too much of the season that started with Sawyer, Kate, and Jack with the Others. I think if the trend continues to focus on Kate and Jack in their worldly ways, I could find a new time for grabbing a snack or hitting the bathroom. I really cannot think of a more tedious part of Lost than Kate or Jack on their own. While the show made them into main characters, they really don't work on their own like, let's say, Sayid can. They are characters that have to be played off of other people and on their own, or almost on their own, they just don't have enough personality to be interesting. It would be like having a cleric in D&D, WoW, or whatever game you want to name with clerics. They are needed for the party, but on their own they are anything but interesting.

A final Lost complaint I have for now is that I miss the flashbacks/flash-forwards. This was a storytelling element that made Lost stand out. However, if the show is going to go with time manipulation instead of actual back story, it just seems to not be able to fulfill the same reveal a little bit more than you could without the removed story elements.

Anyway, despite being full of complaints, don't get me wrong; VC and Lost are both obsessive addictions for me. I love them both, so it's not like I'm trashing on either. I mean Lost never pulled a season two or three of Heroes, and VC is the most original TRPG/SRPG I've played since Disgaea entered the scene.

Now, as for the Oscar nominations...I feel the same about them as I do on "game of the year" nonsense.  That is, I know my favorites, and that's what matters.  However, how can Nolan be ignored for director?  Also, more importantly, how could Tropic Thunder be ignored for makeup when you consider how Robert Downey Jr. looked in that film?  Whatever.  Oscars have always ignored comedies and geek movies whenever possible (unless the outcry would be too much, like with Return of the King, when it's a final chance, like with Ledger's final role as the Joker, or when the year is just crap for mainstream movies).


Malik (1/23/09)

I don't have all that much to really talk about today. Maybe it's my sleep deprived mind, but nothing really comes to the front lines of my brain's war versus writer's block.

I have been playing Valkyria Chronicles primarily this week. That would mean that the only PS3 game I have that will run in full HD on my 1080i/480p/480i TV is being ignored. Yes, I have had Uncharted for two weeks and have not touched the game once. I do want to, but VC and LBP are just too much of a distraction.

In particular, VC is one of those games, like Civ4, in which I will keep saying "just one more round". In Civ4 it means just that, but in VC is more about playing one more section of a chapter. The game is broken into a book-like menu format, with each game chapter being a chapter in the book. Battles and cut scenes all take up a panel in a page, like a comic book panel.

Sadly, with how addictive this game is, I feel like I must explain things like the chapter format. This is one of those rare games that would be greatly loved by many gamers that will sit unnoticed. In fact, the sales numbers, after a couple months, are pretty sad in comparison to what this would have gotten with a different company behind the game. If Square Enix made it, then it would probably had far more sales. I mean any crap put out by SE (and most of their recent games were complete crap) gets both a marketing blitz and a natural fanboy following. That doesn't work the same with a Sega game...especially in an age when Sega is known primarily for horrible retakes on the Sonic franchise.

I would love to hear that a VC2 is on it's way. However, with these poor sales, it's doubtful. It's then doubly doubtful that, assuming a sequel was made, that it would come stateside. Yes, the game is going to be right up there with Xenogears in my eyes as a game that was doomed before it ever had a chance. Like with Xenogears, it's also a game that would most likely be sequel or prequel worthy (haven't finished VC yet, so I don't know if the plot prevents a sequel) but will never have the chance.

Anyway, Harmonix has announced a second six pack of Grateful Dead tracks. The last time this happened, I was disappointed since I wasn't too much into their music and I hated hammer ons. Now that I've grown into both their style and the joys of tricky HO/PO mazes, this is looking so damned sweet.

The usual deal applies here of $2 per track or $10 for the pack. Basically a buy five get one free deal, like normal.

The only part that disappoints me now is that some bands have had a little more songs in RB than they seem like they should when compared to other bands. Grateful Dead has thirteen songs (12 DLC), Foo Fighters have about 17 (15 DLC), RHCP have a shit ton (all but two DLC...but at least that was from a single album/pack and not multiple packs). In fact, if any band is going to be hit this hard with DLC, I'd love to think of one of the top rated albums of all time being included to round out another band...London Calling (the album) from The Clash would be beyond amazing to have in it's entirety.

Anyway, it looks, to me at least, like another awesome DLC week from the masters of attacking my bank account; Harmonix.


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