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Malik (2/11/08)

Well, it looks like Harmonix is well on track for preparing us all for their next game; Rock Band 2: Police Vs. Metallica. Wait, that's not their next game...but they still are determined to cram as much of these two bands into Rock Band as possible. That's the only explanation for tomorrows DLC (in conjunction with the March DLC). Afterall, tomorrow is going to feature more Police ("Truth Hits Everybody"). On top of that, we get some (yet again) more DLC from the Clash ("Complete Control"), and the Ramones ("Teenage Lobotomy").

On the bright side, all of these are master tracks. On the not so bright side, we have seen all three of these bands on the core Rock Band game and each one has had downloads previously...hell, the Police have had a whole pack and in March they will be featured with "Message in a Bottle". In other words, Harmonix is trying (or this is my only explanation I can think of) to limit variety as much as possible.

Yes, last week did see the B-52s, which was awesome. I'm not a giant B-52s fan (although they have a few song I do love), but I am a giant fan of Rock Band variety. I am willing to bet that next week we'll see another round of three songs (since more than that are apparently a Christmas or launch day exclusive), and all three bands will have already been on the core game...and I'll even bet that at least one of them has been in DLC already.

Why do I think this? Because Harmonix keeps rocking the same stuff. I almost said "the same crap", but I do like the Clash, Ramones, Kiss, Metallica (although I hate playing their solos), Radiohead, etc. However, I just want something new. Think about it like this; wouldn't, no matter your personal taste, some of these sound good; Social Distortion, The Presidents, Green Day, Social D., Jane's Addiction, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, Social Distortion, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Gold Finger, or even Social Distortion. Yes...I do have a very strong desire for Social D. However, even more so I have a desire for some music that is either not in Rock Band or music than has never even been in a Guitar Hero game.

Speaking of which...It looks like Activision is looking to force two more Guitar Hero games on to the public between April and June of this year. Supposedly these two new GH games will include hardware innovations and deeper internal growth...whatever that means.

As far as I see it, the GH series is in a very bad place right now. For one, the content on Rock Band makes sure that gamers can keep playing the game for (potentially) years to come without having to make another major investment. On top of that, now that RB is in the land of DLC it will ensure that beyond the base 50 something songs, you will only play what you want to play. Not to mention that RB offers four player fun, which GH just doesn't do.

I also feel a little sorry for the GH crew at Neversoft since GH has a bad track record of off schedule new games. That is to say that any new GH that didn't come at the usual fall time line tended to be the horror known as Encore (easily the worst game in the GH franchise). Plus, it looks like Activision is set on flooding store shelves with GH games, which only leads to them competing against themselves for sales.

Unless Activision can really revitalize the GH franchise, these moves are going to leave things in a sorry state for the once mighty franchise. Then again, they did save Tony Hawks when it became stale when they released was EA who made a good skating game when Activision showed they could no longer be trusted to make a good and fun skateboarding game.

On a better note of games that are in the future, this week should be seeing Lost Odyssey in the hands of those who so desire it. I've seen quite a bit of the game, but looked away enough to skip out on any major spoilers that would ruin the fun. I think it's safe to say, from what I've seen, that the game has a nice solid engine for those of us who still look back to the days of FF9 with love and happiness. I mean, if the RPGs you are in to are not turn based, then you should stay away from LO. However, if you like turn based RPGs, the old story telling style of Final Fantasy games, and only enough innovation to change some rules but not to rebuild the whole system, then LO is definitely an RPG well worth the price of admission.

For me, I've been without a good RPG for too damned long. I will consider Blue Dragon a good RPG, but only because it was fun from a nostalgic sense. It was still a game that needed the free difficulty DLC from day one (or built in to the game)...but beyond the overall feeling that I was always invincible in the game (except versus the optional bosses), the game was still worth my time and money. On the other hand, LO offers some challenge, some strategy, and has a far more advanced and mature of plots...which means I'll be set.


Malik (2/13/08)

So, it's Wednesday and the usual subject is upon me; how are the new songs from this week on Rock Band? Hell if I know. Last night was a blur of too much beer, too much time lost, and not enough sleep to remember it all. All I can say is that I did check out the videos on Youtube for expert guitar and expert drums.

I think the guitar line looked pretty simple for all three new songs. I cannot say for sure, but I think they looked pretty basic. Then again, I cannot recall much of the night as being too damned tired with any beer in one's system is a guaranteed way to forget the night when the sun rises again.

Also, Jericho came back to TV last night. I was home in time to watch. The first half of the episode was a great event as I am one of those who was eagerly awaiting the return of Jericho. As for the second half of the episode...well, that's when I shut my eyes and didn't have them reopen for about forty five minutes...just in time to be told I should go to bed. At least on the bright side, I like to think that this is what DVR was made for, and why I recorded last nights episode.

Sadly, with the writers strike over, Jericho just lost some of its hope of coming back for another season after this one. The show was never a success, but instead was a great cult hit. So, with new shows/episodes coming in the next few months, Jericho is once again looking at an uphill battle to get more fans in a hurry. I hope it works out, but as a fan of The Tick (live actors and animated...but referring to the live actor version), Firefly, Futurama, and a dozen other shows that faced cancellation in the past, I am not holding out much hope for a third season of Jericho.

Lastly, I am finally getting Lost Odyssey in my hands. It will be loading up in my 360 by the time I post this. I have seen a good amount of the game and know that this will be the RPG I've awaited for a long time. It's probably the first RPG that I will have to live up to its hype since Tales of the Abyss came out all so many months ago.

Time to get to LO and resume my hangover hell.


Malik (2/14/08)

For what it's worth, the KOTOR 3 rumors are back. I know I would shit a brick if my geeky desires are met with a third installment. I will not get my hope up too high for this until I see it set in stone, but I cannot see KOTOR not coming back for another sequel eventually. Afterall, it is as close to a must buy RPG as any western developer will ever make.

So, on the RPG note, I started some Lost Odyssey last night. I didn't play as much as I wanted to (see below), but I got a good two and a half or three hours into the game. In other words, with how both LO and most modern RPGs work, I got to the first save point at the start of the first real dungeon. I did do a little fighting to test the system (and learn new skills), but I didn't go much beyond that.

I still hold true to what I have been saying since I first saw the game being played by a friend (or two friends); the game is exactly what any old school RPG fan has been waiting for. It's old school in all ways, with the only exception being that the visuals are beyond amazing and the music is what the old Nobuo music would have sounded like if the SNES and NES supported more advanced of sound technology than midi.

I also finally got to read through some of the dreams. The game includes background information on Kain (the thousand year old immortal at the center of the game) presented as text only stories. I know that the thought of text stories on a 360 era RPG frighten a lot of younger and more newbish of gamers, but they are optional. They are also a great read, being created by an award winning author (don't know his name off hand since I only really know of one Japanese literary writer from personal choices). They cover some subjects that help to define who Kaim is, but with a touch that I don't think would have had the same impact if they were presented in FMV scenes.

Like I said, these dreams are all optional and can be either skipped or read at a later time if you don't feel like breaking the momentum of the game when you obtain one. However, they offer something that I have yet to see in a game and do it so well...I'm talking about the perfect blend of literature and gaming.

The only real complaints I have on LO is that it does have (and you'll see many instances of these being mentioned on message boards) some long load times and the most pathetic example of a case for a multi-disk game that I've ever seen.

As for the loading times; they do get into the double digit seconds range quite often. If you've been playing RPGs since the PSX era, then they are nothing to worry about. We've had slow load times since RPGs first hit optical disks back on the Sega CD. If you still enjoyed RPGs after those dark days, then you're fine with the load times.

As for the case...holy shit this is a stupid design. While Japan, Australia, and probably the entire rest of the world had an intelligently made case for holding multiple disks, the US case is pretty re-damned-diculous. It's a long spindle to hold three of the disks on each other (not conductive to preserving the quality of the disks), and then a paper envelope for the fourth disk which gets shoved in the inside cover with the manual. I can get over this, since I do treat my games properly, but it's still pretty lame to force a package that should have "FRAGILE" printed on it on the average consumer when the rest of the world have been given a proper case.

Anyway, I didn't get as much time with LO as I would have wanted because I finally had time to check out the new Rock Band DLC. For Tangwich; yes they are worth it and yes it was a good use of time to play the new songs before jumping in to Lost Odyssey.

The new tracks, at least on expert guitar, are awesome fun. Complete Control, the new Clash DLC, is a good fast song, but with some nice variety to the chords. In other words, it's not just blind machine gunning of a three different two note chords for the whole song (see Blitzkrieg Bop, Seven, All The Small Things). It's some nice shifts in patterns and a fun party friendly overall song. Best of all, the second (of two) solo is great practice for the final tier of the expert solo career. There's a slightly slowed down B>Y>G repeating chord that gives a good workout for slower fingers, but is not up to the insane pace of Highway Star or Green Grass.

Teenage Lobotomy is also probably the best Ramones song on Rock Band (so far). It's a little bit more of the same with rapid machine gunning of simple chords, but it also includes a nice finger exercise in the opening "LOBOTOMY!" shouting part. Overall, it's still another fast Ramones song, but it's a better choice and easier on the right hand wrist than Rockaway Beach or Blitzkrieg Bop. I just wish that Harmonix would realize that the Ramones have some awesome slower songs that would fit this game while not pushing the stereotype that all punk must be machine gunning. In other words, where's Pet Cemetery or I Believe in Miracles? Oh still beats the Thrash Pack...and I mean just this one single song.

The (Arguably) Punk Pack 2 ends with the Police and Love Hits Everyone. I have to say that I am not a fan of the all. I can tolerate their songs when they sound like Roxanne...for a while. However, when it comes to Get Next to You, I actually have fun playing the Police. I'd put this new one in that second category. The guitar progression is a lot of fun (some good shifting chords and quick hand changes), and the song is actually pretty fun to listen to. This is more along the lines, for those who don't give a crap about anything Sting has done (I fit in this group), of the Police when they rock out and less along the lines of when they attempted to pick up the reigns of reggae to make up for the loss of Bob Marley. In other words, this song is worth the price of buying the whole DLC pack, even for people who want the "punk" and not the "(arguably)".

So, in a nutshell, this is a great pack and worth the price of buying it if you like punk. That said, Harmonix still needs to pull their heads out of their asses and offer some slower punk to show that the 1980's (and the decades before and after) punk world was not all fast and distorted in sound. There were some good slow Ramones (see two paragraphs above), Social Distortion (where's "Don't Drag Me Down", "Prison Bound", "Ball and Chain", "Cold Feelings", "Mommy's Little Monster", "Another State of Mind", "When the Angels Sing", "I Was Wrong", or...well, where's the whole album downloads for Social D?), and so many other punk bands of the 1980's and before.


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