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Malik (3/17/08)

Supposedly, EA is looking at buying Take Two because of Rockstar and not for the sports titles from 2K Games. I think that's pretty damned obvious.

Take Two has always had one money making game in it's lineup at all times. That game is whatever is the latest version of GTA. For EA to even be thought of as going after the sports department of Take Two is a joke. Afterall, 2K only has sports games with limited resources (read: licenses). Yes, they do have some love from a MLB license, but they don't have an NFL license, which is, and always will be, the big sports moneymaker. Add in that EA has Tiger Woods, NHL, NASCAR, and a dozen other sports licenses under their control, and it's obvious that one missing MLB license is not enough to drive a take over attempt.

Of course, there is plenty of icing on this GTA cake if EA does succeed. They would, for one thing, finally have control of both Sid Meyer and Wil Wright under the same roof. They would also get the 2K sports titles, any of the additional Rockstar games (which never are critically acclaimed, but still bring in far more than they cost to develop), and a nice additional batch of extra games. Take Two, if you don't think about any illegal scandals from past management, has always done a nice job of making minor games on the cheap and sparing no expense on the blockbusters. This led to easy profits, and that is never a bad thing to look at when a company is trying to make a quick takeover bid.

This weekend saw me with a little Rock Band and a good deal of Smash Brawl. I'm still focusing most of my time in Brawl to the Subspace Emissary. Afterall, SSE is the easiest way to unlock all of the characters, while still enjoying the game. The 1 second (read: 1 HP flower stamina) battle is all well and good, but it's just not fun. I'd rather spend the extra time at SSE and have some enjoyment from the tedious prospect of unlocking all of the fighters. It's slower, but it's also less likely to drive me insane as I keep hitting the start button to start the next fight...for 450 total battles.

Luckily I'm getting further in SSE. I say this since most levels see you playing as some interesting parties and these parties slowly start to join other groups. For example, one set of stages will see you start with only Zero Suit Samus (who I really don't like playing as), and then soon Pikachu joins in. This is great for me, since Pikachu is probably my strongest Brawl far. This group then gets a little better once Samus gets her suit back and you can now fight as normal Samus (who's far more to my liking than Zero Suit). However, that group only gets better when they join up with Diddy, Donky, Falcon, and Olimar (another character that doesn't work with my style of playing).

This small party system is how most of the early game plays out, with the parties slowly merging. I'm now getting close to having access to parties that really keep me enjoying the game, even when my primary dies in battle.

Long story short, I'm now about 60% through with SSE, and I'm also getting a fair amount of play with some of the other modes. For example, I've just unlocked some new events for event mode, I have some new guys to try out on homerun derby, the coin launcher mini-game is a great time killer, and I need to clear some of the target ranges.

I think that may be the best part of Brawl versus the previous incarnations; the stuff outside of typical multiplayer free-for-all battling is a lot of fun. Also, with SSE forcing some less than desirable characters on you, you get a good opportunity to use some fighters you'd normally ignore. If it wasn't for that, I probably would never had found a reason to try out Lucas or Pokemon Trainer (who ironically for one of the small initial teams).


Malik (3/18/08)

The Wii was already doing pretty well on its own. It is the fastest selling console and it's only gaining some additional momentum as Brawl rakes in the sales...currently over 1.4 million in just one week. Plus, we have only another month before Mario Kart makes its triumphant return to a console.

The one part that has me concerned is; what comes next? Yeah, somewhere in the near future, Wii Fit will be coming along. I think there's also some Tales based love from Namco. However, these are both niche products. RPGs don't generate the big sales numbers (unless they include "Final" or "Dragon" in the title and come from Square Enix), Nintendo consoles are not looked at for RPGs when the PS3 and 360 both seem more suited to this content, and Wii Fit is not aiming for the supposed "hardcore" gamer. In other words, beyond Mario Kart (which always has a nice wide appeal factor), Nintendo is looking very parched.

While it's nice to see that Reggie Fils-Aime is getting ready to hype the future for Nintendo, I can't help but wonder what exactly is Nintendo even able to do. I mean there are some solid Nintendo franchises, and Reggie is promising announcements involving "maximizing all of our key franchises", but this doesn't sound right.

Why, you ask?

First off, I don't see Miyamoto pimping out any of his stuff to make rapid fire sequels. Plus, it has never happened before in the history of Nintendo. So, I don't see any real amazing news coming from Nintendo. With how recently a lot of major Nintendo games had come along for the Wii, very few of these franchises are likely to see the light of day again this decade. Mario? Nope. Metroid? Doubtful. Smash? Hell no. Mario Kart? Not beyond the one due our in a month. Pikmin? I don't see any future of good old Olimar. Maybe a little Mario Party or some of the usual overplayed sequels, but nothing major with only one exception...

I see another Zelda being the potential big holiday blockbuster that Reggie plans to announce at E3. I say this only because it's been known for a while that Twilight Princess was not originally a Wii game, but that a Wii Zelda had been in the works for a while. In other words, it's time for the unknown Zelda game to get it's release. The only thing is I don't see it being a blockbuster for the next holiday season. Nintendo usually has had problems with surprises. We're not talking about Rockstar, who can pimp a game with four leaked screen shots a month before it comes out. We're talking about Nintendo...the same company that announced Smash Brawl before they had even assemble a team to work on the game. Nintendo is not going to let something come out that's as big as Zelda and not start hyping it more than a year in advance.

Whatever is supposed to be the hyped Nintendo game of the next holiday season, I just don't see it as anything more than a minor game in the real staple of Nintendo franchises.

So, once again, I'm feeling that same feeling; what's next? After Mario Kart, I'm only really seeing one major game in the Wii's future (Zelda), and one slightly more nice franchise (Tales), but very little else that will take advantage of the Wii potential and the potential of such a high install base (Wii owners).

Now here is my real point in all of this talk. I'm not looking at Nintendo and wondering why they are slacking on releasing new Wii games. Not at all. They have given us, in the last 15 months, Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Smash, Wii Sports, the Virtual Console, and all of the DS games (like more Zelda, Advance Wars, etc.).

I'm looking more at the third parties that have still not given the Wii a good long look. Seriously, the Wii was expected to turn things around for Nintendo, and now it's been 15 months since the Wii has been road tested as a strong and amazing system. So, where is the third party support about now? There are a few third party developers giving Nintendo some love, but ultimately it's been Nintendo against the world...and the world is siding with the less supported system.

Blah. Maybe I'm just feeling the upcoming drought now that Brawl is here and the future is starting to look bleak. Nintendo can only do so much, as a single company. It's time to see a good influx of games actually coming to the technologically less superior system. The fans have spoken and technology is not the way to go, but it's also a cheaper console to develop for (HD visuals tend to up the development costs just in the art department alone). It's time to see some Wii love from the companies that really stand to gain. Afterall, Nintendo is making a killing as it stands.


Malik (3/19/08)

Last night I finally got through SSE on Brawl. I was afraid of what I'd be facing since I had heard too much talk of the final stage taking up to three or so hours to accomplish. Luckily, while this is true, there are save spots in the level and a map to help you get through the place.

In the end, the stage is easy enough to lay to rest if you were able to beat everything else in the game up until this point. Some parts may end up a bit on the hard side, but that's only if you don't follow one simply rule of saving often. When you save you get full health and all of your lives restored.

I also had the time afterwards to unlock any missing characters by revisiting a few levels. As a hint, try the Swamp, Ruins, and Forest stages again once you've beaten the final boss of SSE. Unless you've been playing a lot of brawls (450 or more), you'll find some extra characters and be able to round out your roster.

Now a little for spoilers for the end of SSE. If you don't like the spoilers, then you'd best look away.

The final boss, Tabuu, is a bitch. There's no other way to put it. That, and I hope you are good with heavy fighters. Any light fighter will be destroyed before you know what happened. Tabuu has, literally, a wide assortment of moves that equal instant death for most characters (some heavies may survive), and a few moves that are instant death for anyone (no matter the weight).

There is only one really good strategy for this fight. While you can learn to dodge a good amount (but not all) of the attacks, there guaranteed death moves require one special bit of knowledge. That would be that Pokemon Trainer is the only character that can be 100% immune to attacks. When you change pokemon (down+b), you are moved from play for a couple of seconds. Time this correctly and you will be free from certain doom.

It doesn't hurt that Charizard is also one hell of a broken fighter. His forward+b rock smash move is certain to deal a lot of damage to any character immune to knock-back. In other words, any of the big bosses of SSE are easy fodder for Pokemon Trainer. Between removing yourself from harm and the big damage of the rock smash, Tabuu does have a nice weakness to well as any of the bosses.

At least having gotten SSE out of the way, I've now unlocked all stages and characters. I only have some extra crap to deal with now, assuming I want some bonus trophies, CDs, and stickers. The only thing you really have to do after beating SSE to finish the major unlocking is to use a few characters a few times in brawls, and to play a few of the earlier events (up to ~25) for a few extra stages.

On a completely different note, if you are a Picross DS fan, like I am, then you may want to check the classic puzzle exchange if you've been skipping for a few weeks. This is the first update since around a month ago, and it is big. 10 packs in total with about 92 puzzles. There also a wide variety of sizes (only three 5x5 puzzles) and a nice mix of free and normal mode puzzles. I know I now have a reason to skip Brawl for the next week.


Malik (3/20/08)

Holy comes the Rock Band goodness!  First, the music store (to buy DLC) will soon be part of the game.  That includes some previews (hopefully more than just some example note charts on expert...hint, hint Harmonix).  This will be nice since music in the store will be sortable by various means, including by band, song title, and even challenge ratings.  Yes, you can now see what tier each DLC falls into for each instrument (including bass) and for the total band.

Secondly, this new patch for the store goes beyond just the store.  Some of it is good, some is vague, and some can be bad depending on your perspective.  The fan cap for each difficulty will go up (meaning the entire leaderboard will become skewed for a few days as bands reach the new cap for their level).  The million fan achievement will now be possible when playing on hard.  Not to mention, easy players will now be able to go across the Atlantic.

Phoneme recognition will be improved.    I hope this means that the talky songs, like Sabotage, no longer just give points based on how bitchy the game is being and it actually listens for what you're saying and the rhythm of your voice.  I know my Friday night band's vocalist would enjoy getting properly graded and not just getting random "poor" remarks when he's spot on and perfects when he's f#@$ing around.

The songs are supposedly getting more diverse in BWT mode.    I just hope this means that I will no longer see so many cities that are obsessed with one damned song in each set list.  I'm looking in particular at anything not in North America or Europe (the Flirting, Green Grass, and Run to the Hills focused cities).  I know I'd like to play some other songs or songs with varieties of difficulties in the larger sets.

Speaking of songs, the game should also be far more streamlined when loading up DLC after the patch comes along.  In other words, the songs will be cached once and then you're set.  I know this will fix one of my most constant annoyances ("Loading Additional Content").

Last of all, band logos will now be visible online on the 360.  This doesn't mean too much to most people, but when your band is crazy enough to make a full on logo, it's nice to see it come across to the world.

My one question is this; when will the patch come along?  It's supposed to be ready this week, but I want to know when.  Afterall, Friday is the night my usual band plays, and since we're typically held to hard, I want to help the rest of the band get the million fan achievement as soon as possible.

Now to change subjects.  From what so many love, to the person many people love to hate...

I know many people will take offense at this, but Peter Molyneaux is a genius! With two unique operating structures, the Arcade and standard games, one one console like the 360, it is about time that there is some sort of crossover in the works.

In Molyneaux's case, he's making a total of three Arcade games that will come out shortly before Fable 2. The smart part of this is that these games will let you gamble for gold (virtual and worthless...except...). Unlike most gambling based games, the money you make will have a purpose. It will all be able to be transferred to you Fable 2 game when the game is released.

Since Fable 2 does not have the usual fat loot drops from enemies (afterall, why would a wasp be carrying a sack of coins?), money will be harder to obtain. When you add in the way that you can buy anything in a town or, for the most part, the world, to gain political titles (mayor, king, emperor), then you will be needing a good source of money. Hence these crossover games will work perfectly to help the players that need a little extra income. Add in that the pub games (which these all play out a lot like) in Fable were so damned addictive, and this is perfect. It will get people hyped for Fable 2, they are Arcade games with an honest purpose, and they will be picking up an old idea that was pretty nice in its day.

What idea, you ask?

Final Fantasy VIII and several Dreamcast games (Skies of Arcadia was my most memorable one in this group) had portable memory card games. FF8 used the Pocketstation (never did see a real US release) memory card and the Dreamcast games used the VMU. These memory cards all contained, in addition to the ability to save games for their respected systems, a small LCD screen, a d-pad, and some buttons. This meant you could play mini-games on them. With some games, like FF8 and SoA, the items you gained in these games would be transferred to you save of the big scale game involved, and then you'd be able to get the fat loot while away from the fat console. I won't even mention how the games on the SoA mini-game (I forget the name...something like "Pottle's Quest", I think) were fun. Really fun. Also addictive. Very addictive.

For Molyneaux to bring back this idea, especially in the Arcade and Virtual Console era, is nothing short of genius. Assuming the three Arcade games are not exuberantly priced, I can see myself buying them and having a blast earning some money for Fable 2 a little in advance. Plus, unlike games like FF8 and SoA, nothing special will be unlocked with these, so there's no disadvantage for those who cannot use the system. If it's too rick for your blood, you will have no problems. Also, since Fable 2 is barely online/multiplayer, this will not offset the balance of the world like the pay structure of something like Hellgate: London did for that game.

Even though it's been hip to hate on Molyneaux, I've never felt the least big of resentment. Ok...maybe a little for my main actress in The Movies becoming a complete drunk (but that's not bad) after she finally started to make it big. This is the type of news that only serves to remind me of how awesome the man is and how awesome his ideas can be. He may get carried away from time to time, but you can always tell that he's in the business for the love of the games...not for the love of the business/money.


Malik (3/21/08)

Two quick notes. First off, no post on Monday. I'll be traveling back to the Seattle area and this will leave me drained. So, I'll be resting up on Monday when I get home and not thinking about posting.

Secondly, I was wrong...sort of. I think it's more that the way the Rock Band update was presented by many sites was wrong, but I fell for and commented on this error. there are a lot of different sites posting news on that big Rock Band update. There's places like Kotaku, Joystiq, XBox site, and other sites small and large. What does this matter? For me it matters greatly since I simply read the almost copy and paste done by these other sites. Meanwhile the official Rock Band forums had the same info...but with a few extra words.

I bring this up since one of the updated parts I was most excited about was there being more variety in the set lists. I took this, with how many sites copied and pasted it, to mean that some sets would be changed since certain songs were done to death in a given venue or city.

By reading the real announcement of this update on Rock Band's official forums, I could see that this is still great news, but in a completely different way. That is to say that it sounds like no sets are changing, but the content of a random set list will be getting better. Apparently, there was a bug in the random system that liked to pick identical and similar (same artist) songs when multiple random track sets were picked.

I know this is quite true since I've gone through plenty of hell with a 2 song random picking Metallica (usually leading to failure) and when the set is picked again, another Metallica song would show up. For me it usually involved failing at Blackened, then failing at Ride The Lightning, then failing at ...And Justice For All, then finally passing Enter Sandman. So, if this patch will fix this part of the random generator, I know this will be almost as good as shifting around tracks in the set venues.

The one thing I'd still like to see in a patch is for some alterations to existing set lists. That is to say that I'd like to see some of the DLC become part of a set list. Maybe have an option in the game that will look at genres and eras and pick the songs based off of your DLC. Afterall, there are more DLC then regular in game songs, and I'd like to have some new blood, so to speak, in my existing sets. Maybe turn the Southern Rock Marathon set (Flirting, Green Grass, and Mississippi Queen) so that it may include Skynard or Black Crowes for one of the songs. It could even be made so that the set changes each time you load the game (random southern rock, for example), or maybe turn it into a three song random that will only look at southern rock for the three songs. As a final option, maybe let you create a set list but it has to fall into that correct genre.

While it's not a big deal now, it could increase the longevity of this game when we finally out number the in game songs with DLC by as large of a ratio as we will be seeing by the time Rock Band turns one year old. Afterall, DLC does increase longevity on its own to only a given point. After that, we need something to alter the venues or else DLC only means something to random and "make a set list" sets.

Speaking of Rock Band, the DLC for this week is looking like it will make up for the crap of last week. Yes, it will be six master tracks from Boston . The entire list can be found on that link, but the most important thing is we'll see a return of More Than a Feeling! This is one song from the glory days of Guitar Hero (glory days being the days before Encore) that I have wanted to have the full four person group for since Rock Band first came along.

For the legal sounding aspects, the pack will go for 800 MP ($10) or 160 MP ($2) per song. In other words, more of the same price scheme seen on the Grateful Dead pack.

The best part of this is that it means more than three songs in a pack is not some aberration. First it happened with five on Christmas, then six with the Dead pack. Now another six pack is upon us and rumors are flying that the albums may be soon. At this rate, the DLC will definitely be plentiful. I just wish this larger pack idea could be used on more weeks with very subjective music (like the Thrash Pack week) so that two unique and different genres can be hit upon at once so it's more likely that everyone could walk away happy in some form.

Also, with these larger packs, it comes back to what I mentioned earlier. The DLC will be greatly squashing the number of in game songs soon. This is why the sets need to be revisited for BWT mode. Soon the choices in BWT are really going to feel limited.

I was ready to call it quits for this week with the Rock Band DLC announcement...but then my friend Tangwich sent me some really sad (and f#@$ed up) news.

Yes...CBS is once again canceling Jericho. Afterall, it had bad ratings. However, this can be explained quite well with an excerpt of what I wrote to Tangwich after reading about this;

Why couldn't CBS put the show on at a good time slot? Why couldn't they advertise? I wouldn't had even known the second season was ready to air seven weeks back if it wasn't for an old DVR setting to record Jericho at any time on any channel. If it was given some attention and a good time slot the show would have done awesome. The second season did not require the first to make sense, it was gripping with its awesome plot line, and the...I can name a thousand reasons the show should remain...and one damned good reason to drink a little extra tonight during Rock Band. If you still have the Tuesday episode on DVR, we should watch it again before Rock Band. Maybe toast it's memory and besmirched honor. :*(

I just hope that cable holds some hope of saving the show. I won't happen. Look at other fallen greats (perfect example being Arrested Development). True, some get a cable life in their darkest moments, but they tend to be animated and without a major cast to worry about (Futurama and Family Guy come to mind). Not many network live action shows can find a cable home after a double death sentence. I hope that maybe HBO (or even SciFi) look at the possibilities of Jericho adding to their struggling line-up. Afterall, HBO is now short The Wire and The Sopranos, and in need of something that already has a fanbase. However, I see nothing in the future for Jericho...except a few diehard geeks lifting their glasses in it's honor when the curtain falls...Tuesday may mean great things with Boston hitting RB, but it means far worse things when the night draws to a close with a complete loss of future Jericho.

The only bright side to this news is that I don't care one damned bit for CBS. They have the worst football coverage (give me FOX, NBC, ESPN, or anyone else over a CBS broadcasted Seahawk's game), no good shows (outside of a soon to be departed Jericho), and a horrible national news anchor. At least now I can be free of that damned network. With the loss of Jericho, CBS will also lose this viewer.


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