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Malik (3/10/08)

I really hate daylight savings time. I hate it with a passion. It's this time of year when I really envy those few places that are smart enough to do without the antiquated notion of f$#^ing with my sleep and my wonderful sense of going in to work while there's light enough to not be hit by a car as I cross the street.

Anyway, I am still waiting for my Smash Brawl. I ordered online. I won't get the game until Tuesday, but I got a good enough deal (works out to about $35 after express shipping, thanks to a gift card and a low price) to not sweat these small details.

However, I did play a good amount of Smash on Sunday. I haven't done any of the single player stuff, but I did enjoy a few dozen rounds of Brawl mode (the new name for Melee, which would be the old name for the multiple player free-for-all).

I also got to try out most of the characters in the game and see my friends play the other characters. I think it's safe to say that a few things I noticed are least for now.

When I say that, I mean that some things that are obvious at the start of a new Smash game typically get reversed as people learn the moves and special strategies.

For example, I could see that some characters are naturally broken (at least at the start of the game). Pit is a great example. His forward B attack is a powerhouse of cheesiness. He created a spinning barrier by twirling his bow/swords in front of him. This proceeds to block all attacks, reflect energy attacks, and cause a nice stream of small damage. This attack also doesn't stop until you stop hitting the button. This means that if you get a player stuck against the wall, then that player will be pretty hosed until another player breaks things up. On top of this, the move also manages to make Pit invulnerable to attacks from above (at least it applies to Pikachu's lightning strike).

Another character that's pretty unbalanced would be good old Pikachu. His moves are essentially the same as from Melee. However, one key difference is that his down smash is now harder to avoid and easier to use as a cheese attack. If the enemy is strong, then they'll remain close enough to get hit by a follow-up up smash attack. If they are already damaged, then they'll leave the down smash attack flying a fair distance.

In fact, I'd have to say that Pit and Pikachu are probably the perfect starting characters with how much ability they have to cheese an enemy. There's a few others with these levels of cheese, but they definitely stand out as two of the best.

The other thing I quickly noticed is that Brawl's new addition of final smash (FS) attacks are unbalanced a bit. There are a few that are just too damned powerful. The best example of this is in Sonic and Zero Suit Samus. The Sonic FS is simply him turning invincible and into a ball of energy (effectively, at least; really he's Super Sonic) that will deal a fair amount of damage with each hit of an enemy. You also keep this power for quite some time, so this turns Sonic into a machine of quick kills. It even last long enough to kill someone whem the power first activates and then you can kill them again after they respawn if you plan you attack well enough. The only down side is that if it runs out of a pit, then Sonic has a fall ahead of him. It's a lot like Pikachu's FS, but Pikachu's lasts for a little less time and is hard as hell to control.

Zero Suit Samus is broken in another way. She basically unleashed a short range area of effect attack centered on herself. This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for how one gets their FS attack charged. When a special ball/item appears, everyone tries to hit it enough to obtain it (think pinata). So, you're all naturally bunched around the person who gets the smash orb, so Zero Suit Samus just needs to hit B immediately after obtaining it and she'll get at least a couple of enemies in a quick blast that will severely injure, if not kill.

Maybe with time I'll feel differently (since I need to learn any Brawl strategies that wouldn't work in Melee), but there are just some overly broken abilities that I've seen so far. There's also some very underpowered brawlers at the same time.

The best example of the underpowered has to be King Dedede. He's slow enough to make Bowser from Melee look like a speedy character. He's also slow in attacking, and his FS isn't all that great. The only thing he has at all is the ability to soak a lot of damage. However, damage taking is not enough to make up for a character that's only use is getting in a sneak attack when two others are fighting.

One other big change from Melee is that there are a lot of items on a field at a time. Characters create debris and this stuff remains (to be thrown at enemies) for quite a while. When Samus goes into the Zero Suit mode (including if you start a battle that way), her suit remains in pieces to be thrown (with a good amount of damage and force). When Wario rides his motorcycle (forward B), it leave the motorcycle behind when he gets knocked off. Then the motorcycle can be hit and broken into a half dozen parts. All of these remain for a while and act like Samus's suit parts. While this is fun for a while, it also leads to a potential cluttered field that can, to me at least, become an annoyance.

I still need to see a lot more of the game, but I'm thinking that I may have to think a lot differently about Brawl than Melee. Overall, they look quite similar, but I'm thinking my personal preference is just to turn off items like the Smash Orb to keep characters that are already good fighters from becoming too broken (like Sonic). I also need to see some more of the characters. When I played at my friends' home I didn't get to see a good deal of the characters...especially, I felt the pain of my favorite Melee character, Jiggly, being locked away.

At least one thing I can say it that Brawl is a solid Smash game and it's going to push Wii sales along until the next great batch of games come along.


Malik (3/11/08)

It's a rather chaotic time for me.  So, I posted what should have been posted yesterday above (with yesterday's date).

As for Rock Band this week; the DLC was a bit of a let down versus how much it could have been.  Yes, there's some 80MP tracks.  That's cool.  I also have no problem with Serj Tankian, and (while I hate to admit it) Paramour has grown on me.  Both of the songs that comprise these artists look pretty fun on guitar expert videos and I may look to buy them.  I have not seen Shockwave (by Black Tide) in video format yet...nor have I ever heard the song.  So, I'll have to look into this one more to know where I stand with it.  With it being an unknown (to me), I need to see an expert guitar video to know where my money lies with this song.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled chaos.


Malik (3/12/08)

I'm back, so to speak, from a rather messy and not so fun last couple of days. Without going into details, I'll just say that life throws a few too many curve balls from time to time.

I got my copy of Smash Brawl in the mail yesterday. I haven't had the chance to play it yet, but that's what tonight is for. I think my start of Smash will be a lot like when I first played Melee. That is to say that I'll be focused on unlocking some characters as soon as possible. While I enjoy playing as Pikachu, my main character has been, since Melee days, Jigglypuff. So, I have my first goal rather set in stone...get Jiggly unlocked. I just hope Jiggly is as good of a character for my play style as she was in Melee.

I'm also going to finally get some of the new Rock Band songs. After seeing Shockwave on expert guitar, via youtube, I think I'll be skipping that song. It's just a little too generic in sound and a little too ugly on the note chart to be worth it in my eyes. The one thing I didn't understand while seeing an expert guitar video is why it's ranked where it is. It's listed as a tier 8 guitar song, while it looks far more technical and advanced than a good deal of the tier 9 songs.

At least the two other songs look to be worth the investment. Beethoven's C*** looks like it has a good deal of speed and fun note changes, but not so fast or frantic as to make it not enjoyable to play. CrushCrushCrush feels similar. There's some fast stuff and some crazy alternating chords in the middle (especially with G+B -> G+O progressions), but not weird and challenging enough to make it not fun for a single player or band setup.

I don't have much else to say for today since I'm in a state of recovery from the last couple of days. So, I'll just end this with some thoughts of Smash to soon fill my head.


Malik (3/13/08)

Before I get started, I have a quick translation for you. Capitalized words are for Smash games and lower case are for modes. I had to say that since Brawl (the Smash game) has brawl (the free for all game mode), just like Melee (the game) has melee (the mode), and I want to keep this simple as I type.

Last night I finally had some time to play Brawl. I started with the thought in mind of unlocking characters as quickly as possible, but that soon turned out to be too damned boring. Basically, the quickest way to get characters unlocked is by fighting in brawl mode (multiplayer) with two characters. Set the game to a stamina and flower special mode (stamina = HP instead of needing to be hit off the screen; flower = constant HP damage) and setting one single CPU character to 1 HP while you control a guy with anything more than 1 HP. The battle then ends one second after it starts.

This works great for the first few characters. You only need 15 battles to unlock Snake, less than that for Luigi, and you can easily get up through Falcon before this concept is just too damned boring to continue with. I was wanting to at least get Jigglypuff, since she is my main Melee character, but that requires too many of these damned 1 second battles.

That's when I decided to have some fun while unlocking people. In other words, I'd go ahead with the Subspace Emissary (SSE) game and actually play more than just when I'm told a new challenger is approaching. This is definitely the slower way to unlock characters. After more than two hours of playing SSE, I was only at 31% done. This is not some lame rehash of adventure mode from Melee. This is an entire game with (in a cheesy and non-speaking way) a plot to it.

Going into Brawl, I assumed SSE was simply a quick adventure mode clone. I assumed you may have a few twists, like certain characters being required for certain stages...but it's definitely more. In fact, if you like the idea of Smash, but hate the battling of friends and find a CPU battle royale boring, then Brawl can still fulfill your need for fun with this full on extra game.

In fact, I think I would have paid the full price of buying Brawl without SSE and then later buying SSE as a separate game (maybe with some new "break the target" challenges and a few other new goodies) without raising a single complaint. The brawl mode is what most people bought Brawl for. Maybe a little for the classic mode (fight a bunch of battles in a row and face Master Hand at the end), but brawl is where people wanted to be with Brawl.

Plus, there are a lot of things in SSE that just goes beyond what you'd normally find in the other modes of the game. Beyond having a pseudo-plot, and facing unique enemies (and there are a lot of them), you also have unique stages and settings. You also have a unique leveling type of system in which you earn stickers that you can place on the base of each character's trophy. These will allow you to (depending on what you add...and you need to manage size and location so nothing overlaps anything else) boost strengths of various attacks, gain more health from food items, find bonus trophies quicker, get resistance to various energies, and even lower how much knock back you take from foes.

If anything, I think SSE almost makes me think of Kirby Superstar (SNES). That game included about six or so different games, but one game stood out as a full on adventure game (and not just a run and attack game like a standard Kirby game). This adventure game allowed you to permanently gain special powers, and it was a lot more intense than anything that was standard Kirby fare. That one game really could have been sold separately from the rest of the game...and that's just how SSE feels.

I'm glad Nintendo added all of the package into the final game, but I think this is one time where cutting parts out of a game and selling them separately could have worked out for everyone.

Anyway, I want to finish SSE before I even consider going through with unlocking characters the old fashioned way. It's just too much fun (except when my party is limited to characters I'm no good with...I'm looking at you Zero Suit least Pikachu joined you to save your sorry ass).


Malik (3/14/08)

Since I've started to play Smash Brawl I've realized a few things. The first and most obvious thing I've noticed is that the Gamecube controller is always going to be my Smash controller of choice. Between the c-stick for quick smash attack access, the location and layout of the face buttons, the ease of hitting the d-pad for taunts, and the location of the z and shoulder buttons...well, there is simply no substitute for this controller.

The other thing I've realized is that the GCN controller is on way too short of a leash. It's just tiny in comparison to any other controller wire of the previous generation. The XBox always had an awesome cable length, and the PS2 wire was still serviceable (despite being too short for my taste). The GCN controller, on the other hand, has a cable that's a good several feet shorter than the mighty XBox leash.

So, with Smash allowing GCN controllers, as well as the Wii in general being so damned GCN compatible (and compatible with GCN controllers for other uses, like the Virtual Console), it's only obvious that Nintendo sure could sell a lot of Wavebird wireless controllers right now. It would be so easy to see an increase in demand for them.

This is where I get pretty damned confused. I went to Gamestop yesterday (it's about 3 blocks from my work, so it's a good quick excursion for my lunch break) to pick up a couple of Wavebirds. No luck. Gamestop apparently only gets a couple of GCN controllers per month, and these are wired ones. So, I checked out their online store (which will usually have a larger selection). No luck again. Then I tried checking a plethora of online stores, like Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry's, and even Amazon (who I hate to shop at because of how they mess with people when it comes to new releases...and because they treat their employees in certain departments like pure shit). The only controllers I found were on the Amazon marketplace (not directly sold through Amazon)...used controllers. I then tried a few more searches online for Wavebirds and saw a rather alarming and sad trend.

Wavebirds go for about $60 or more used, and can easily break $150 new. Since I don't see any reason to blow that much money on a controller, and used is never a good option when it comes to a thing that's easy to see wear and tear form on (especially on analogue sticks), I had no choice but to continue playing Smash on a tiny leash.

Why Nintendo doesn't release a fresh batch of Wavebirds I'll never understand. Now is the perfect time and a great way to boost sales on older peripherals, while still not cutting into profits from anything Wii related. I guess I'll never understand this simple and pathetic type of oversight. That's why I'm a scientist and not someone working in a marketing department.

At least I can still play Smash and I can attempt to either learn the classic controller for the Wii or be doomed to sitting about 3 feet from my 52" TV...both of which seem to not be favorable in my eyes. Blah.

On a final note before I'm out for the day, the Rock Band DLC for next week has been announced...and sadly it's the Thrash Pack. I really cannot say I was looking forward to this pack coming out. I'm all for different genres, but the vocals seem poor for most of these songs, and the guitar sounds like overly technical crap.

I do like the sounds of technical guitars when they are used right, but not like this. More so, I do not care for overly technical sounds on Rock Band or Guitar Hero since it usually leads to overly complex guitar note charts. Take Enter Sandman as an excellent example of this. Enter Sandman is a lot easier to play on a real guitar than the note chart of expert makes it look on Rock Band. I would hate to see the opening of a song like Kryptonite (by Three Doors Down) on Rock Band just for this reason (it would require rapid finger changes, while the real opening of that song requires only to life on finger after your hand is placed on the right frets).

I know some people look to Rock Band for the challenge, but I think that's more Guitar Hero's place. Rock Band I have always seen as the place to turn to for the pure fun of rocking out with some friends. Yes, I like challenge...just not one of ridiculous levels.

On the bright side, this means we're down another pack from the OXM March list. This is good news for me since that list looked like so much crap. With another one down, I only have two more crappy sets (the one with more Skynard and the Metal Pack) looming in the future. I just wish the longest promised pack would get its release already. I'm talking, of course, about Who's Next (Nevermind would also be nice about now).


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