First the PC was
dead as a gaming machine, then it survived. Then it died. Then it
survived. Then it died. Then it...do you see a pattern in this. I
certain media is considered to be on life support. However, any time
it's a machine dedicated to (or capable of) gaming it doesn't live
up to expectations...or is that "die" up to expectations? Why? It's
Gaming is a way of
life for millions upon millions of people. Gaming will never die.
So, is it any surprise that
consoles are now being labeled in this same way. That is to say
that at least one person sees gaming dedicated consoles on death
It won't happen.
It will not be true for the simple reason of why PC gaming won't
die; gamers exist in large numbers. Yes, consoles will eternally
change, and some will see then as evolving (I see things like the
360 and PS3 more as a de-evolution), but then a certain company
known as Nintendo will remain. This is a company that brought back
gaming after the collapse of the early 1980's. This is a company
that shunned technology (like HD and media functions) in order to
bring a pure gaming experience with the Wii. Plus, what happened
when the Wii was the sole dedicated gaming machine of this
generation? It sold quicker and more strongly than any console that
So, if you're
someone quick to jump on any bit of bad news and take it as gospel,
I have one thing to remind you about. Gaming is not dead, it will
not die, and even machines only 75% dedicated to gaming will be the
limit of console evolution/de-evolution. As long as you enjoy
gaming, and as long as your friends and family feel the same, you
can be assured that gaming is alive. As long as new smash hit genres
come about, like the home rhythm rocking/music genre, the motion
captured genres of the Wii, and as long as the staples of football
are still obsessed over...well, gaming machines have too much at
stake and too much profit to make to be dismissed as another dead
To shift gears, I
see the end of one thing...Guitar Hero. When there's rumors of a
flood of Def Leppard on GH4 and news on what horribly one
crap is coming to GH:Aerosmith, I see the franchise in deep
trouble. Activision went the wrong way with Neversoft developing new
titles, and surprisingly they went the EA path while EA has taken
Rock Band (via Harmonix) in what appears to be completely against
old EA ideals.
That is to say
that the GH franchise is being milked as a cash cow while Rock Band
is being kept whole and in a great place. While GH is being forced
on the world, RB is being kept calm and cool and will ultimately
keep bringing in new fans as long as Harmonix controls the game and
keeps it from becoming an EA cash cow (like what is seen in Madden).
Speaking of Rock
Band, the new
DLC for tomorrow is Still Alive (that song from Portal). In
other words, it's the song that many expected for April Fool's Day.
The biggest news of this is that the song is free. However, that is
all for the DLC tomorrow. One song.
I guess after
getting two six packs in recent weeks (including the massive workout
that was Boston's first album...minus one song), it's not a big
problem to get only one song. However, after delaying the
announcement last Friday, I would have expected a bit more. The last
time an announcement was delayed, we saw a pack of three $0.99 songs
(the SXSW Pack). I was hoping for more than just the minimum of
expectations. I'm especially feeling this way since I'm willing to
guess that next week will see another part of the OXM March
list...of which I couldn't be less excited.
At least we're
still on the "above" side of the three songs per week average. Two
weeks of six, one week of five, a week of one, and the rest being
three (not counting opening week of a shit ton) still averages to
Still Alive is on
the Marketplace (at least in the Rock Shop in Rock Band). I
was about to quit playing some solo for the night when I stumbled
upon a song listed for 0 MP. It would happen to be Still
I can't help but
wonder one thing; it's probably not the case, but could this be part
of an April Fool's type of thing? I have never before seen
Rock Band get a DLC on a Monday, so could there be a different pack
coming tomorrow to throw us all for a loop. Like I said,
that's unlikely. It's far more likely that this came out early
due to the XBox Live maintenance shut down happening later on
(tomorrow morning) and that Still Alive was released, along with
possibly anything else scheduled for tomorrow, early to save on
headaches for the Live team.
Anyway, I played
the song on expert guitar and it's not too hard. In fact, this
song feels more like practice for hand shifting than anything else.
I mean I got a 5-star on a sight read of it, and I was preparing to
quit Rock Band for the night because I was just not feeling the
groove (I am tired and playing like shit). I wouldn't call
this song fun, or creative in the guitar chart, but at least it's
free. I know I'd be pissed off to pay for this...but free
isn't too bad.
The only good
thing I can honestly say about this song is that it will be fun to
listen to my Friday band's regular singer singing like this.
After playing some
on Still Alive last night, I came to a few conclusions. For one, I
tried out bass and drums on this song and I have to say that it
still feels more like a practice song than a real song. So, I'm glad
that it was free.
The bass is
incredibly easy (why is it tier 2 on bass?). It has a couple of
rapid notes in a row from time to time. That is to say that it has
two quick notes followed by a lot of slow paced notes, and some very
slow hold notes. If you need a song to get the "perfect bass
up-strum only" achievement (groove technician or something like
that), then this is easier than Learn to Fly (my best bass song
before this one). Also, it's far easier to get gold stars than on
bass for Learn to Fly (which required perfect overdrive usage). To
make it even easier, you don't start playing bass until over a
minute has passed on the song...and it's only a few minutes long as
The drums were not
all that hard, either. I'm talking about hard difficulty drums when
I wasn't feeling the drum vibe. I probably would have struggled with
Say It Ain't So on hard drums last night, and Still Alive was still
pretty damned easy. Some double bass and some unusual timings
between verses, but nothing challenging at all.
The other thing I
realized is how damned slow scores update on the leader boards now
that the update is here (as of a few weeks ago). I scored well
enough to be the highest on the bass leader boards (a few thousand
above the listed number one), and I still wasn't listed two hours
later. It's sad since I wanted to be number one on something for a
The last thing I
realized, as I scanned the leader boards, is that some people are
really amazing with their band logos. One of the best examples is
near the top with "Feed the Geeks". Now that is a cool looking logo
for what the logo creator lets you do. In the spirit of that
awesomeness, I started on the logo for my side group with Velveta.
Our band is the Ghost Cowboys, and we were logo-less. That changed
last night and will be improved upon after posting this today.
it seems like a requirement; I'm on fire or something. April
Fools! Ok...now that I put that bullshit to rest, I just wish
the rest of the internet would follow suit.
Not too much going
on for me right now. I'm starting to feel sick, which is natural
since I've been hanging out with people who seem to be stuck in a
nasty cycle of colds. Tempt fate enough and it will come to get you.
Last night I
played some more Rock Band. I did some solo stuff (just killing time
on expert guitar), but mainly looked at BWT.
I finished work on
the logo for the band I have with Velveta (Ghost Cowboys). I don't
know if the logo is good as a logo, but it looks like a good self
titled album cover. Unfortunately, I went a little too detailed, but
I also ran out of options once the 24 maximum number of layers was
achieved. It would have been easier if there were some more layer
options, like being able to stretch/rescale a layer to slightly
larger sizes, but I took what I could get.
I finally got to see the Ghost Cowboys get an audio guy. Now we need
the body guards, and then after we get a PR team, we'll be good for
the Hall of Fame. I don't need this for myself, since I have been in
the hall and all of that with two other bands. However, it's nice to
get this with all of my major bands.
I also want to get
a bit better so Velveta can finally play more on hard. Of course
there are advantages to her playing on medium. For one, she can
guard me when we play one of the dreaded mystery sets that brings in
a song that doesn't blend well with my skills. Especially, as we did
last night, when Little Sister or Bang a Gong come up. For some
reason, I just can do the alternating chords of either of these
songs...or of course when the solo comes for a tier 9 songs, like
Highway Star (one of only three core songs that still decimates me
on solo play).
On a different
note, I like the
new idea from the ESRB...in theory. They have a downloadable
widget to quickly look up a game rating. It's a great idea since I'm
fully behind more parents having better access to ratings on games
before they go out and buy GTA4 for 12 year old little Billy.
However, the sad fact remains that no one will use this as it is
intended to be used.
The rating widget
is designed to make finding ratings easier, but it really cannot be
easier than looking at the box on the shelf. The rating for a game
is not exactly hidden from view. It's big, clear, and on the front
of all game boxes. So, if a parent will not check these , why would
they check a widget...or even go through the hassle of downloading
It is a great idea
to make ratings easier to find, but it simply will not work when
they are already so damned easy to find. If it's being ignored now,
then it sure isn't going to be found with something even more
complex. It's like checking the Wii Weather Channel for if it's
rainy or sunny in your area when you have a window or door to the
outside right next to you. If you're too damned lazy to check the
weather by peeking out a window, then you're definitely not going to
check the more technical way (like the Weather Channel).
decided to buy a game and place a pre-order. It isn't as much as I
suddenly wanted some games as much as I had a nice little financial
windfall that made me feel free enough to get some things taken care
of that I've been wanting to take care of.
which doesn't really matter since it won't be in my hands for a few
weeks, was for GTA4. That one was an easy enough of a decision. I'm
a GTA addict, and that will become very clear at the end of the
month when I'll probably talk about nothing beyond GTA4 and how much
it has stolen my life away from me.
The game I bought
was Professor Layton and The Curious Village for the DS. This is a
game that has bugged me since I first learned some real details of
it...from my mother of all people. I had heard that the game not
only offered some difficult mental challenges (puzzles), but also
that the production values definitely beat anything else on the DS.
Both side of this were beyond true.
As for the
puzzles, I am seeing it as a companion to Brain Age. Instead of
Brain Age, which give the equivalent of a light aerobic workout for
your brain, Professor Layton is like hitting the bench and trying to
give you brain a quick rep of heavy lifting. Instead of solving a
few quick puzzles, you'll spend some time rationalizing every aspect
of some really detailed puzzles...with a few stupid pun style
puzzles thrown in to even it out. So, while one puzzle will ask you
to rearrange matches to change a picture into another by moving only
x number of matches, the next puzzle will ask you something stupid
to get you to not over-think solutions (for example: you must light
three objects with a single match; which do you light first? The
match is the solution, but it's so simple that it can be overlooked
As for the
production values...hot damn! The game as some animated cut scenes
that look like they came straight from a PS2 (or maybe even a GCN)
game. These also include voice acting that is clear and with some
level of quality to them. I don't think there's any other DS game
that boasts of these production values. Most of all, these are not
rare occurrences. You get more cut scenes in this small little card
than you get in all of Tales of Symphonia for the GCN.
The only remaining
part of the game is the plot. The plot is interesting but it's also
ignored most of the time since you'll be more obsessed with puzzle
solving than the plot that unravels as you solve these challenges.
However, one thing strikes me in particular about the plot.
As a minor
spoiler, a murder takes place during the second chapter of the game
(out of 10 chapters). This is the first murder to happen in the
village that Professor Layton is investigating. I find that hard to
Everyone in town
will ignore all requests for assistance until you solve a puzzle for
them. If you want to ask where a cat went when it ran by, you'll
have to solve a puzzle. In return for you investment of potentially
tens of minutes, you'll be told a stupid answer like, "I didn't see
where the cat went". I would imagine in this type of village that
someone would have been killed by a tourist who was just looking for
"I'll show you
where to find some food...but only after you solve this puzzle!"
Still, despite the
silliness of this idea of a village that is filled with puzzle
obsessed jerks, Layton is an awesome game for puzzle lovers. There's
more variety than most puzzle games will give you, and there are
plenty of levels of difficulty. If you're the type of person, like
myself, who goes crazy every time new Picross DS puzzles are up for
download, or loves the Brain Age style of DS games, then this game
is a must have. There is so much to do and a lot of exploring to
find hidden puzzles or coins (which let you purchase hints on the
more frustrating of puzzles).
chapters, I can only think of one real downside to this game; it
definitely is without replay value. Unlike Brain Age, which keeps
you going with quick random-ish challenges, these puzzles are
limited in size and easy to solve one you've done it once before.
There is typically one answer per puzzle and it's quite easy to
recall, when looking at a puzzle for a second time, what the
solution is or at least how to find the solution quickly.
I spent much of
the last two days just going through Professor Layton. I am
basically done with the game. Not counting the Weekly WiFi Puzzles
(which are actually only unlocked via WiFi...not downloaded...which
is rather lame), I have one puzzle left in the bonus section that I
can select. After clearing this, I have the three Puzzle Master
puzzles to accomplish.
In other words,
I've beaten the game and am now just doing the completionist thing.
So, it's safe to say that I can form a few conclusions.
First off, the
visuals, animation, and voice acting is solid. Well, it would be
solid if the game was on the PS2 or GCN. By being on the DS, these
features are nothing short of amazing. This is, in my opinion, the
most technologically advanced DS game, hands down. The best part
comes when you've beaten the game and then can re-visit all previous
movies in the game.
As for the
plot...well, it is cheesy in a way. There's a villain who looks evil
and has no real purpose in the plot, but that may be cleared up in
the upcoming sequel. There's a town obsessed with puzzles, and the
whole reason for the world existing is pretty silly. However, at the
same time it's a plot that does make a certain level of sense
(except for the villain) and has a nice level of sentimentality to
The core game
play, which is almost entirely made up of puzzles, is a lot of fun
if you're the type who likes to think long and hard about
things...especially if you also enjoy sometimes having puzzles that
remind you to not over think on everything you have presented to
you. The rest of the game is made up of trying to find the next
puzzle to accomplish. It's not really a bad deal...as long as you
like puzzle games. If you're on the fence about thinking games, then
you should walk away.
The only real
issues I found in the game that did not sit well with me were two
almost minor things.
The first is that
some puzzles have either multiple solutions or that the wording of
the puzzle is not clear. This means that you'll either solve
something and may not have it accepted (there's one puzzle with
three solutions that only accepts one of the possible answers...and
sadly I had to look up an answer after failing twice with what
should have been correct answers). You'll also sometimes try to
solve the puzzle in a different way than the words are meant to
present it. In other words, it looks like the translation team may
have used a Japanese to English dictionary a few too many times and
didn't use an actual translator.
The other issue I
found is more of the age of my DS showing. My DS, I am supposing, in
it's old age (launch DS), will repeatedly act like a minor input is
being applied to the touch screen. It's not enough to show any
effects on any games, except on Layton. On this game, the text will
constantly scroll and change as if I was button mashing during
conversations. There is a solution, but it's a little annoying; I
have to always keep my touch screen active by resting my stylus on
the screen. Since advancing dialogue actually requires the removal
of pressure from the screen (not just the application of pressure),
I can then advance dialogue by lifting my stylus.
Like I said,
that's an issue that's probably due to my DS having gone through too
many games of Wario Ware (I did put in a few hundred hours on that
game) and it's chisel mini-game. However, Professor Layton is the
only game to have given me trouble, out of countless games being
played on this very same DS.
Anyway, I'd call
Layton a must buy for puzzle fans and a must skip for anyone else.
If you're a Level 5 (the people who also did Dark Cloud and Rogue
Galaxy) fan, you should rent it since it's a very different game
than their other projects. Even if you enjoy their sense of style
and humor, you'll still be facing a game that might not be for your
As for the big
news that I look forward to each Friday;
The Rock Band DLC announcement is pretty sad. Next Tuesday will
be the OXM bonus songs (Sprode, Rock Rebellion, Shake) that came out
on the February OXM bonus disk. Each one will be 80MP ($1) or 240MP
($3) for the pack. No discount on buying the pack...
I guess it's good
for this to happen, since it means that those who missed these songs
the first time around are not out of luck. I know I barely managed
to get these songs from a friend's friend who had the disk. Plus,
they're not bad songs. Sprode is awesome fun, and the other two are
fun enough with some good guitar chord shifts going on.
On the other hand,
the reason this is happening (no NEW songs) is bull shit. It's going
on since the Sony PS3 store is down for several weeks. First off,
f#@$ Sony. If they cannot get their store running right and need
multiple weeks for maintenance or whatever, why should the other
side suffer? I don't just say this as someone without a PS3. I say
this as a gamer who loves all games (even those on bad
consoles...like the PS3...first console I ever "just didn't like").
Why not release
the songs for the PS3 after their update is done? PS3 Rock Band
people can get a huge influx of music at once, and 360 fans can
still keep their new music game going. It seems only fair
considering that Microsoft is doing things right. I'd sure feel the
same if the shoe was on the other foot since I'd be happy to know
what I could look forward to when the Sony bull shit was done.
This is the type
of crap that makes me think of one major inequality; why does Europe
still suffer? Why not block all Rock Band DLC until Europe gets the
game? Wouldn't that be fair? Why not block all DLC until the PS2 and
Wii can get it?
Marketplace and the Sony store are different systems. They run on
different protocols and are independent. So, why does one have to be
equal to the other? Especially I ask that since I know that 360
owners get the DLC for Rock Band a couple days before the Sony/PS3
RB fans get it. So, in simple, there's a time for it and a time to
forget it...and now is a time to say, with pride, f#@$ equality!
This isn't a discrimination thing, this is video games.
I just love, above
all else, how I passed the PS3 by because it looked like it would
only waste my time and money. However, while my money is not wasted,
they are still wasting my time. I can't escape them even if I avoid
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