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Malik (4/23/07)  

Beautiful Katamari has been made official for the PS3 and 360. While no Wii version, which was being rumored, is included in this announcement, I really don't mind. The thought of playing more Katamari, even without it's creator at the helm, is too good of a thing to ignore. Also, just thinking about the Wii playing a Katamari game has me a bit concerned.

How would one use the Wiimote to control the rolling ball of doom? Motion sensing in a game as fast and as precise as Katamari would be nothing short of annoying and almost painful on the wrist. To use the d-pad and the analogue (of the nunchuck) would not be as precise as one would hope for (as seen with the face buttons being used on the PSP version of Katamari). In the end, this is the right type of game for dual analogue sticks, and anything else would be nothing short of wrong and distasteful.

Plus, there is enough of the 360 console for game enthusiasts to be able to pick up the game comfortably. The Wii, which is still going through shortages, would be a better way to reach a large audience than the PS3, but it would not be larger than the 360 audience, and that is what Katamari and Konami need; large audiences to ensure the games keep coming along and entertaining us all.

I didn't get in many games this weekend. I had too many chores to do (like planting trees and all of that...and no, it wasn't my early Earth Day was the prospect of fresh produce growing in my own yard sometime soon) and too many games of D&D to play.

However, I did get a chance to watch Hot Fuzz. That would be the new movie staring Simon Pegg and from Pegg and Edgar Wright's (Shaun of the Dead) minds, in case you're not up to date on British comedy.

Hot Fuzz is am awesome movie. I guess it takes the British, as I've always known, to make a good spoof that doesn't feel forced. It's a basic spoof of the classic police buddy films (Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, Bad Boys), but with a great sense of humor. Not to mention, the action scenes were brilliant.

I also took a little time over the weekend to finish up with Super Paper Mario. I can now put that game to rest and never have to look back. In the end, I feel the same way I kept saying since I first picked up this title; it's a great game concept that just reaches a few too many bottlenecks as the speed drops down for pointless fetch quests. If you actually enjoy fetch quests (in which case, I pity you and am amazed by your complete lack of taste for quality gaming conventions) and platformer style action, then this is an ideal game for you. If you like silly comedy, this game is also for you. However, if you like all of the basic elements and just cannot stand another fetch quest based game, then I'd go the rental route. The game is worth trying, but it's probably (for you) not a game worth the full price of admission.

At least Mario Galaxy should make up for this poor treatment of Mario and his world. That, and Smash Brawl will also help to give us some more of Mario on the Wii, but without this annoying idea of fetch quests (and yes, they are that bad and plentiful enough to ruin the entire flow of SPM). By this time next year, Mario will have been avenged...and then some.


Malik (4/24/07)  

I don't have too much to talk about today. It's mainly due to me being involved in some Hank Hill (from King of the Hill) style antics. I have a poor looking lawn and I needed to spend about three or more hours last night hitting the dandelions and other weeds with herbicides and all of that stuff. Yup.

However, I finally did download my first Wii Virtual Console game; Beyond Oasis. It's an old game, in both terms of being a game from the 1990's and being a game that's been on the VC for a few weeks. However, I may have owned it as a kid but I never played much of it (lent it to a friend and when I finally got it back, I was no longer interested...dumb mistake). It is a great game. Along the lines of Zelda, but with a nice change of pace by taking more of the Arabian Nights type of setting.

I'm only about an hour into the game, but I'm enjoying it on so many levels. Additionally, this has given me a chance to try out my Classic Controller. It's a good way to play a game like this that requires three buttons, but made use of the Genesis six button controller.

The only other thing I found time for last night were my guilty pleasure on TV (Drive) and my favorite show of the current TV lineup (Heroes). I'm happy to see that Heroes finally returned with something far more substantial than what Lost brought us when it returned from it's long break.

I won't post spoilers, since some people have taped/recorded Heroes but have not seen it yet, but I will say one thing; I am glad that Heroes has the balls to kill off characters. Lost seems to be afraid to remove anyone important (except for Mr. Eko...the worst death ever on TV and the worst loss Lost could have seen). However, Heroes will kill important people while bringing in new people that we actually give a damn about. I mean, adding Malcolm McDowell as a returning character is awesome. He is the perfect Magneto for for this type of show...he's evil, but is he really "that" evil?

I just hope that George Takei makes more appearances as Hiro's father. In fact, I hope all of the characters keep being interesting and enthralling to watch. Unlike Lost (the best comparison show to Heroes), I have yet to be disappointed by any character being brought in, as well as not being sad to see any of them go since the deaths of characters have been important.

Now, I would truly be happy if Lost could follow suit. My advice; kill off Jack and Kate. That would show the fans that the show means business...and they could stop this stupid love triangle that keeps dragging Lost into the romantic genre. Sawyer could remain, since he's a good balance for Hurley, Jin, and Charlie...but Kate and Jack need to go.


Malik (4/25/07)  

Yesterday I received my new CPU heatsink/fan. I have yet to install it onto my board, but this should allow me to really unlock the potential of the E6300 Core 2 Duo chip that's running (and heating) my computer.

From what I've heard, this CPU, that's clocked at about 1.8GHz out of the box, can reach speeds in the mid to upper 2GHz range without any real issues. I've never had such a CPU or motherboard before that is so friendly together for overclocking anything above a minor 5% increase. It will be fun to see what I can push this computer to do and how quickly I can get it done.

I'm still on a bit of a PC gaming kick right now. After all of the upgrading I did a couple weeks back, I really want to push my abilities to the limit and have some fun doing it. Sadly, my game of choice right now is probably going to be Half-Life 2. I would go with a fresh start on the PC version of Oblivion, but I could barely get through the 360 version as it was.

Not that the 360 version is bad and ruined the Oblivion experience for me. It's more of how my experience with Oblivion is tainted by the stupid idea of leveled enemies and treasure. I like to play my role playing games in a setting which is a little structured. I like open ended games which throw out the idea of linearity. However, I like to know that when I finally find glass armor (the staple best light armor of the Elder Scrolls) to think that I earned it...not that I simply killed a dude while I was level 20. I also like to think that some bandit demanding 100 gold from me is not so wealthy as to have some glass armor on his person (which sells for far more than the amount I'm being robbed of).

If this levels idea was not involved, I would have no problem giving Bethesda some more of my money to buy the PC version of Oblivion and even the Shivering Isles expansion. I'd also love to try out the great line up of community made mods. However, as long as Oblivion stands for leveled equipment, I think I'll just pass it by and hope that in 5 years The Elder Scrolls 5 will bring us back to a world that is not a giant random treasure generator.

Beyond my PC gaming fun (which, despite having a nice powerful PC, is spent mainly with free casual games), I have had little time for much else. I have been tweaking my entertainment system, including finding ways to set up my consoles to give them their proper access to important resources (like how after last night my 360 is back on Live and not too far from a network cable).

At least I could always use my lack of game playing time as another excuse for why I won't go back to Super Paper Mario...since I always hate to walk away from a Mario game...too bad SPM warrants such a departure.


Malik (4/26/07)  

I was able to add my new CPU fan and heat sink to my computer last night. Afterwards, I was able to safely and with great stability overclock my CPU to over 3.0 GHz. That's 3.06 GHz on a chip that's clocked for 1.83 GHz. I'd call an increase of over 1.2 GHz pretty damned nice. I'd also call it a testament to the wonderful abilities of the E6300 Pentium Core 2 Duo processor and the wonders of ease I could do this with as a testament to the user friendly nature of my Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard.

If you are looking into the possibility of buying a new CPU and motherboard, I could not recommend this combination any stronger...unless you like the thought of going to 3.6 GHz...then it sounds like the E6400 is the way to go.

The only downside is that I had to drop about $40 (after shipping) on my new heat sink and fan and a small tube of Arctic Silver 5. However, since the E6400 is only clocked for a hair over 2 GHz and it's $50 more, I'd call this cost one well worth it.

Using this new setup, along with my DDR2 chips that are only clocked at 667MHz and my 8800 GTS video card, I was able to max all settings in Half-Life 2: The Lost Coast (the only game I could find with a video stress test that I had access to) and run at over 120 FPS. Not bad for a person who usually sticks to being one step behind on computer hardware. Now it just makes me wish I had this a year ago, so I could have bought Oblivion on a system that allows for the fun of user made mods (the PC).

I did take the opportunity last night to download the Infernal demo found on Steam. I have to say that beyond all other thoughts, this is one amazing game from a visual standpoint. It's just a shame that the great visuals and the great story concept cannot be utilized in a game that feels like it's being handled properly from a game play perspective.

The game allows you to utilize a sneak button and the ability to use walls as cover while picking off your foes from around corners and behind boxes. However, I must ask; what is the use of sneaking and cover when the enemy always knows where you are. If you can use a sniper scope to find a foe, even if they are at the farthest possible distance from you, then they are already aware of your presence. The sneak concept is completely nerfed by the ability for all enemies to find you without you making yourself known.

To further annoy the gamer, this happens while the audio of your enemies has them stating how "the intruder" (that would be you) has left the area and everything is secure. They say that they no longer suspect you to be around, but continue to know your every move well before you've stopped sneaking in the shadows.

If it was not for this ESP-like ability of the AI to find you, then Infernal could be one hell of a great game. The setting of the forces of good and evil fighting with supernatural abilities and an arsenal of heavy weapons (including the best FPS/third person shooter flame thrower I've ever used) is fun to try to be a part of, and the supernatural abilities are a blast (literally in some cases) to use. The entire game feels incredibly polished and fun to play...except for sneaking. Sadly, that breaks the game for me.

Anyway, I think I'll be fine with some old school game play on the Wii's VC (ala Beyond Oasis) for the time being. I also have some Half-Life 2 to play since I never played more than the demo before and I now own the whole intermediate priced package (including Episode 1). If I really get bored with that, since so little else is on the horizon, then I may have to break down and get the game I keep saying I don't want to get (not Infernal...sorry, it's just not good enough...I'm talking about the PC version of Oblivion...for the mods and the expansion). I think having a good PC has pushed me away from the next gen gaming world for awhile as I get caught up on the system that has been with me the longest (PC).


Malik (4/27/07)  

It's when I hear news of things like Nintendo selling 5.84 million Wiis (which is more than any other console maker has sold in this short of a time period) that I realize more and more than these conspiracies are dumb. By "these conspiracies", I mean the ones talking about how Nintendo is intentionally holding back supplies to create artificial demand for their product. No. This type of talk is maybe suitable for some consoles, but not for something trying to reach the casual gamer and succeeding so well at it.

Casual gamers are not the type who would follow Wii releases each week hoping to snag one of these elusive machines. They would be more likely to give up and call it a day early on. To delay the shipments of Wiis in order to bolster a fake demand, Nintendo would lose millions of potential sales, and this is not the way that Nintendo is running their business. Sony? Well, they might do this type of thing when the PS3 sales leveled off to make some extra hype, but they didn't. Microsoft? I still don't believe those old rumors from a year ago about how Microsoft made fake demand to help the only HD gaming system on the market at the time.

I mean the Wii is becoming such a movement of cultural levels right now that it's big in nursing homes, it's big with non-gamers (as I've seen with my dad, who last purchased a game machine, not counting PC, in the 1980's when he got us kids an Intellivision), and it's even being featured at a work party at my own uptight and boring day job as I post this (I don't attend these parties since I'd rather drink a little bit and relax after a long work week than party with my co-workers...who mainly are the subject of my ire). The Wii is big and it's not something that will end or be stopped by a lack of demand. It, however, would only be hurt by the fake demand conspiracies.

On the other side of the console war, Ken Kutaragi is "retiring". Why do I feel like this "retirement" is probably not as much a choice as it is a forced decision? I know! Maybe because of how this once brilliant mind that drove Sony into the gaming world and drove them to be the best console seller of the last generation has become weak and feeble.

Kutaragi has led Sony into some very troubled times. He made press announcements for the PS3, prior to it's launch, that brought lawsuits from Nintendo and Microsoft for slanderous and deceitful comments being told as fact. He promised gamers anything and everything would be on the PS3, only to release a console that lacked so much. He told many things and "wrote many checks" that his lame and no longer "with-it" mind could cash. It was like when Gunpei Yokoi made the fatal mistake of designing the Virtual Boy (although some of that blame could at least be placed on Nintendo).

Kutaragi is someone who will both be missed, if he fully leaves the gaming world, and at the same time we should all be glad to see him leave...and hopefully stay gone. He had a lot of power on his hands, and he held a lot of respect by those around him. He helped to bring about the three party system (or is that the three system parties) we now have had for three generations. He brought Sony to the gaming world like no one else. He made a system (PS2) that outperformed on so many levels despite being lower in technical abilities than the competition. However, he's also part of the problem that now faces Sony (the PS3). He brought about lawsuits, bad press, bad decisions to make an "entertainment supercomputer" instead of a "game console", and a lot of unfulfilled promises.

Now, hopefully, Sony can get things back on track with their operations and stop looking to further scapegoat Kutaragi (since he's been held accountable, even after being removed from his original power, while Sony did not attempt to fix the problems at hand). By this, I mean it's time for Sony to look for a way to please third party developers again, lower the price, and focus on gaming instead of entertainment in general.


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