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Malik (2/18/08)

It's a little old now, but the DLC for Rock Band was announced on a way. It was not announced in the usual way via Harmonix's forums, but I think this is due to today being a holiday for some people. Anyway, the songs sound like a good mix of some stuff that should keep the game a little more entertaining in light of the trouble (as I see it) that's brewing for March.

The songs are going to be individual tracks of El Scorcho from Weezer, Sex Type Thing from STP, and Why Do You Love Me from Garbage. While I have no qualms with these tracks, I do have some minor issues with the bands and another thing.

First off, we keep getting bands that are in the core game for the DLC. Enough of this already. As I said last week, we have some representation of many bands already, but there are thousands of potentially fun bands that just get no love. Since 2008 began, we've only had a few bands enter the Rock Band fray without prior experience of being in the game. We've had the B-52s, The Monkees, the Black Crowes, Oasis, and Skynard. It's time to see some ignored bands...and I don't mean any of the crap coming in the March Thrash Pack.

My other minor issue is how can El Scorcho be on the game (due to the first line of the lyrics) when my name (Malik) is not "classy" enough for the game. If we're going to get anything like El Scorcho, then at least allow some common names (like Malik, Dick, Jesus, and others that are found in the modern world) to be considered "classy". Blah...I'm just tired of having to use "Malek" instead of "Malik" to show up on the leader boards when Malek is the one of these two that is more likely to not be found as "classy".

On other music game news, one of my worst fears has been revealed to be true. I always thought that a Guitar Hero game with Aerosmith alone would be a horrible idea. Aerosmith, while they have a couple of songs I do enjoy from time to time, is simply The Rolling Stones lite. So, seeing that GH: Aerosmith is coming along and will be here in June is a horrible nightmare coming true. At least, on the bright side (speaking as a Rock Band fan who felt like GH was ruined by Neversoft), this will only further put a nail in GH's coffin. I think the ultimate test of how bad this experience will be for GH fans (why have you not become a RB fan?) is if Pink is included on the set list.

I may sound really down on GH, but it's actually that I'm not a fan of how Neversoft perverted the game. They took Harmonix's brilliant concept and added false challenge (like playing notes that don't exist in expert on GH3 and forcing three button chords where they shouldn't be only to ramp up the challenge), made a giant window for hitting notes, and turned the hammer-on system into a weird game of hitting notes as soon as possible...even before they appear on the screen at times.

Also, having seen the only current example of a GH spin off game (GH Encore), I don't see good things coming, but I do see some people throwing their money away on a sub-standard game. I know I paid $50 for Encore only to get a game worth around $30 (if even that much). It's sad to know some people will waste another $60 for this new Aerosmith themed game when it will probably not be worth that. At least with Neversoft and Activision pimping the GH name for so many games in a year (another is supposed to come up by the end of June and I bet a real GH4 comes out in November), it will only hasten the demise of this name as it turns into another stale example of crap, like Neversoft is known best for in Tony Hawk.

If you have the PS3 or 360 version of GH3, at least there is something good about this. Ending today, you can get Aerosmith's Dream On for free. That's the only good at all that I can see in this perversion of another once mighty game franchise.

Anyway, I've been killing my own time with a nice blend of Lost Odyssey (now on the second disk) and Rock Band (medium drum tour finished). At least these are two games that will not let me down.


Malik (2/19/08)

I am off from work today, which is working to my advantage.  On one hand, my face is coming back to life as the anesthetics wear off from a dentist appointment (that was, long story short, actually to my advantage).  On the other hand, I was home to play the new DLC as soon as it was ready.  So, keeping in mind that I'm an expert guitar player and a medium (but moving on) drummer, these are the difficulties for my reviews of the new songs.

El Scorcho (Weezer):  This song is really easy.'s the easiest guitar song in the game and is damned easy on drums as well.  I don't know if it's quite as easy as Live Forever (Oasis), but it does rank up there in the lack-of-challenge rating.  Then again, El Scorcho is a slow paced song.  It's indy styled rock and this just lends itself to slower paces more naturally than most commercial sounding rock.

Anyway, the drums are very simple and slow, as are the guitar.  In fact, the guitar only includes something like six three note chords and a very quick part of two note chords.  The majority of the song is single note plucking like you'd find in the first parts of Creep, Black Hole Sun, or I Think I'm Paranoid.  Because of it's simplicity and how the song actually sounds, I have to say that I can only recommend this song to fans of Weezer.  However, if you're a Weezer fan and like the Pinkerton album, then you will definitely need this track.

Why Do You Love Me? (Garbage):  This is a lot different than I Think I'm Paranoid.  The song is faster (especially for the strings and vocals), it's heavier, and it's a song that begs to be played louder.

The Guitar line is a little weird at first, but it's pretty fun.  It's primarily some two note chords with a little single note (of the lower note in the chord) leading into each chord section (think of the style of Blitzkrieg Bop on expert...but slower...and with typically two single notes leading to a chord section instead of one).  The primary opening riff is fun to play and is a good practice (for those who need it) for Gimme Three Steps.  There isn't much else to say about the guitar part except that it's varied enough to keep you from getting bored.  Also, since this song has a good strong guitar presence, this song is pretty fun to rock out to.

As for the much fun!  I have not liked a song on medium drums this much for quite a while.  There is plenty of changing rhythms, changing of the bass location, and a really fast and interesting part about 2/3 into the song.  This is a perfect song for people who like more of the variety in drum lines and less of the same old crap you find repeated through Green Grass and its second solo.

Overall, I have to give the nod to this song.  If you're a fan of the modern Garbage sound (not the stuff from the self titled album or Version 2.0) or if you like the modern female singing rock sound (think Paramore), then this is a perfect song for you.  Also, if you're not some elitist about music (and you know who you are), this is worth a listen and maybe checking out on youtube.

Sex Type Thing (STP):  Do I really need to say anything?  If you know this song and like it, then you know you need to get it.  If you grew up in the rock and grunge filled 1990's then this song is already in your mind.  If you like Core and any of the old STP sound (before Sour Girl), then you know you are getting this song.

Anyway, the guitar line is fast and fun.  It's also a little unusual in feel (like any other STP on Rock Band) and look when you first start to sight read the song on your first attempt.  Until the notes click in your mind, it will be a song I'd classify as "easy to beat, but hard to do good on".  Once the basic pattern makes sense, then it just becomes a fast and fun song that you will be able to tear apart without a second thought.

The drums are a little less fun.  Maybe on hard they might be better, but on medium they feel a lot like that endless stretch of medium drums for the last half of Green Grass.  In other words, you have a lot of "bass+Y>Y+R" going on for long stretches.  Considering the challenge increase on other STP songs from medium to hard, I'm afraid to see if it gets better, but I think this is probably a pretty basic of drum lines no matter how much you ramp up the challenge.  Then again, this song is meant to showcase the guitar and vocals, not the drums.  So, it's still a fun song to play if you are a fan of STP, but it's not the best drum line...still not as bad as Green Grass by any stretch of the imagination.

Overall, I have to give a major recommendation for Sex Type Thing.  Seriously, this is a song that is meant for Rock Band.  This is also a song designed to be played loud and with a full band, if you get what I mean.

Conclusion:  If you're a Weezer fan, then you would be good with getting all three songs.  If you're a drummer, then get Garbage at the very least.  If you're a guitar player who likes some challenge, but not anything near the final tier of solo expert, then get STP and Garbage.  If you're a vocal type person, then you could do far worse than picking up all three.  If you're one of those people who demands that everything be hard as shit (and you also tend to say GH3 is a better game because of the challenge), then move on...both move on away from these songs and get back to your damned butchered Neversoft crap.

Sorry...I can't stand what Neversoft is doing to the GH name and their false added difficulty (fake notes and excessive three note chords).


Malik (2/20/08)

With the death of HD-DVD being official, I must say that this is exactly why I stayed out of this whole thing. I'm normally a rather quick adopter of new technology, however when you have a battle between two formats and only one will become the standard, it's important to stay out of the whole mess.

I do hate that blu-ray is the winner since it puts power into Sony's very incapable hands. This means that the standard of choice will now be controlled by a company that is known for higher licensing fees and a less active approach to maintaining consumer happiness. Afterall, this is the same company that will put any crap on the market and attempt to force it down our throats. A great example is the PSP.

Not only is the PSP a joke of a game platform, it's also built around idiot technology. That is to say that it uses a media format that is not friendly towards consumers. I don't mean the pathetic UMD format, which was doomed to fail as anything more than a media for placing PSP games on. I mean the Memory Stick Duo. Even when the PSP was launched, it was obvious that the SD card format was the right way to go in the nearly universal market that has become so SD centered. Wii, still cameras, video cameras, MP3 players, computers...these all had adopted the SD card long before the PSP even went to market. Instead, Sony forced their memory cards down the throats of gamers in a lame attempt to force extra life out of an over priced and obsolete media format.

I find it funny that Toshiba has thrown in the towel with HD-DVD but will not cease production until April. This is damned funny since it means more HD-DVD players will enter the market despite it being known to most consumers as a dead technology. Sadly, there are some people who are less than educated on technology who will still buy these players as their prices continue to hit the bargain bin. These are the people who will be most strongly hit by the death of this format.

At least it means that if you're a collector of ancient and no longer supported technology (I know you people exist since I'm the same with game consoles), then you will have an easier time scoring this dead model of technology for your collection.


Malik (2/21/08)

I'm now on the third disk of Lost Odyssey. I guess this should put me just past the half way point in the game, and I think after ~25 hours I now can form some good strong opinions on the game.

First of all, LO is without a doubt my favorite JRPG to come along since Xenogears. If you add in mods and Western RPGs to the equation, it's my favorite RPG since Oblivion with OOO, MMM, and a few other mods to make the game interesting. It might even be a little higher up on my list of favorites than Oblivion modded, since I may have been more in love with my new (at the time) PC and what a 8800 GTS with an over clocked dual core could do.

The story is amazing in my eyes. As a fan of storytelling that goes beyond the classic RPG concepts of almost no character development, or the modern RPG ways that usually include massive amounts of emo or moody characters that have no reason for being so damned moody or emo, LO offers something different; true character development and true explanations of why people are the way they are. You may start off playing as what seems like a typical gloomy and emo protagonist, but it soon becomes clear that he is that way for a damned good reason and his personality starts to grow into a full fledged 3D character as this occurs.

The best part of the storytelling, in my opinion, is that the game attempts to give everything some life. None of the characters, so far, have been ignored for interactions and development. This gives everything more of a feel like literature than a typical RPG. That is to say that you have reasons for the quest beyond getting fat loot and trying to kill a big bad monster.

Also, the game play offers what I see as the right level of innovation. Considering how all RPGs seem to go for something innovative now, it's nice to see small steps that pay off in the end instead of giant steps that leave you wondering why the developer would dare to defile the genre with such stupidity. In other words, there's no sphere grid (why does everyone have to always end up equal in so many modern RPGs) from FFX, no junction or draw system to bore you as you try to obtain magic from FFVIII, no forced real time button mashing like with Eternal Sonata, no unusual attempt to force MMORPG mechanics on the party like with FFXII, and no licensing system because your party is too damned retarded to realize a helmet goes on the head like in FFXII.

Instead you have the skill systems and the mortals versus the immortals. The mortals gain skills and new abilities like in old school RPGs. In other words, you gain enough levels and you gain some new abilities. The immortals have to learn their skills from equipment (like if a bracelet makes you immune to poison when you wear it, then the immortals can permanently learn this ability from the equipment) and from the mortals. You are given a limited number of skill slots to equip these learned skills, so you have to plan out how to really design each immortal. You also have to plan which immortals to give slot seeds (which increase each immortals number of skills slots by being consumed). Do you want a fighter with a lot of combat powers or a mage with a lot of magical skills...and do you share evenly among these two classic types of characters?

You also have the mortals who need to be resurrected if they fall in battle, while the immortals will get back up on their own after three rounds of being in the red. When you also have the ability to form a party of five from any available party members and you have five total mortals and four immortals to work with, you have some room to strategize. Best of all, since each character levels in unique ways (no eventually equaling of all party members like FFX has with the sphere grid), this means you will have to think about how to shape the party for your own style of playing.

In other words, LO is old school through and through with its game play style, but it takes these old ideas and pushes them in a few unique collaborations. The skill system has been seen in both FFV/FFIX (immortals) and FFIV (mortals), but we have not seen it together in one game before. You also get the Suikoden experience system (enemies give less XP as you gain levels, and a level is always worth a flat XP cost; in LO it's 100 XP for any level) to make sure you're never over or under leveled. Grinding only really pays off for gaining skills and money.

Anyway, I feel like LO is offering us something that Square Enix has denied us for too long; a true game in the same feeling of the classic Final Fantasy games. This is what FFX should have been...but with a better plot than anything Square Enix ever produced...besides Xeogears.

I still have a good (my guess here) 20 or so hours left to the game. Considering how much the game has improved with each passing hour (which is to say the game develops as the plot develops), I think things will only look better from here on out. I think it won't be long until Oblivion with mods is sad in comparison to my eyes.


Malik (2/22/08)

With how there has always been this continental divide in gaming, I was hoping that current generation systems would help to knock this down some. What I mean by the "continental divide" is how some regions have always been locked out of the fun or have seen their potential reduced. The largest example being Europe.

When the PS3 launched, Europe was the one major gaming region (sorry Australia, but you just don't have the sales to make game companies look at you all that seriously...) locked out from the nearly simultaneous launch schedule. When the SNES was in it's prime, Europe was the region that didn't see Chrono Trigger. When Microsoft launched it's video download/rental service (which I still think is a lame idea), Europe was locked out, once again.

However, there are a few times when Europe gets the leg up on North America. These moments are few and far between, but a great example is how Europe saw a Dreamcast release of Shenmue 2 when the US never saw the game until the XBox version. Now there's another instance of Europe getting the advantage and it makes me quite sad from a nostalgic point of view...

In Europe, the Commodore 64 is coming to the Wii's Virtual Console. This is the computer that claimed more of my 1980's gaming time than any other system or computer. The Commodore was the ideal gaming format for myself as a kid since it offered and required joystick play for most games and it had multiple programming formats that could harnessed for cheap and quick gaming...assuming you were up for putting in a thousand lines of "machine language".

Commodore 64 was also the primary home for some of the best early PC gaming titles. The first Boulder Dash offerings were at their best on the C-64. Lode Runner saw it's best early incarnation on the C-64. Then there was the amazing and addictive Jumpman series...which also happens to have been made by Epyx (the company that will be finding it's way most assuredly of all C-64 games). In the end, there were too many good games to name and too many offerings that really would be worthy of a Wii North American port.

It is rare for the US to be ignored by a major company for too many things. I mean with the Wii VC consoles, the US has even seen the almost forgotten Neo-Geo. However, for some reason, the C-64 just cannot be brought to the US and this is a shame. While I think $5 for an ancient C-64 game is a joke, I would still pay that amount to have a VC port, that is playable, of Jumpman, Boulder Dash, Boulder Dash Construction Kit, Racing Destruction Kit (think RC Pro Am on the NES, but so much more awesome and with a track designer), Lode Runner, the C-64 version of Spy Hunter, Temple of Apshai, the old Disney based adventure games (Alice in Wonderland, Swiss Family Robinson, etc.), and so many others that I cannot recall the names of.

I hope that Nintendo adds the US to the regions getting C-64 VC games...but I can also see what would happen if they did. With only a few games coming to the VC each week, there would be a few gamers who would be excited about the old nostalgic games of their youth...and thousands whining about not being able to play a "fun" new VC release because some "crap" was released instead. It's a sad thing, but American gamers (and I am one, but an open minded one) tend to feel a level of self centered-ness in many things, including gaming.

This attitude is why each week the Harmonix/Rock Band message boards erupt with comments on how the new RB DLC for the week is crap. It's also why Wii related message boards are flooded each week with complaints of the new VC releases. It's simply how Americans tend to act. I wish it was different, but too few of the North American gamers are open to trying something different. This includes long forgotten gems. Even if one of these ignored games was on par with anything now (in terms of fun...obviously not for technical merits), it would be ignored and bashed...sigh...and I would love me some Jumpman.

On a final note for today, Rock Band DLC announcements are now coming each Friday. This week will see the Nine Inch Nails pack that was announced on OXM to be set for March. So, it looks like Tuesday will see masters of March of the Pigs", "The Collector", and "The Perfect Drug".

At least this means the future (March) is no longer certain. This gives me something to get excited about since March was looking pretty weak to me and now it's a complete crap shoot again.


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