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Malik (4/30/07)  

Hopefully only good things will come from Nintendo's acquisition of Monolith. I hope we see more of what it's founders once had (great ideas that included Xenogears) and less of the Baiten Kratos and Xenosaga crap they brought us in recent years.

Unfortunately, Nintendo usually saw Baiten Kratos and other crap along those lines when RPGs were brought to their little purple box I call the GCN. I hope that they can get Monolith, now as an in house developer, to ensure that some real and quality RPGs come along to the Wii. I hope that's not asking for too much.

I'm keeping this short today since I'm beyond hung-over. I feel like crap and I doubt I'll trust Velveeta again when she has a brilliant idea like, "we should get buzzed tonight" on a Sunday. That just leads to a bad feeling all around.


Malik (5/01/07)  

I'm glad to see that some of my favorites have made it to the Virtual Console (Wii). Sadly, it's the American translation of Legend of the Mystical Ninja, and not a re-worked proper translation, since the original Japanese was so much more...ummm...well...less refined. The strip tease side show that turned into a big fart, for example. It's hard to explain, but the Japanese humor was just so much more enjoyable.

However, if you've never given Mystical Ninja a shot, this is a definite game for anyone looking for a fun and addictive VC game. It's made up of a nice blend of side view platforming with Zelda-esque 3D town segments. Toss in magic, summoning mounts, arcade games (including Gradius), silly humor, and gambling. This is a great game, and with the VC containing the save state function (by hitting the home button and exiting a game) it is so much better than the original and it's long and frustrating password system.

I just hope, with how we've seen one Japanese only game come to the US, that more Japanese only games get translated. Supposedly, at one time, Seiken Dentetsu 3 was partially translated to English. Maybe we could see the final job accomplished. Maybe we could get a real translation of Dragon Quest 5 and 6 which only graced the Japanese SNES. Maybe we could see Bahumut Lagoon. Maybe we could see some more Square games from when they still knew how to please their fans and not just their potential mass appeal audiences that they now aim so desperately to please.

Anyway, I've been too busy with being a "grown up" to play many games lately. I spent most of Sunday at my work and doing yard work. Last night I spent the bulk of the evening at a reservation only wine dinner of the highest caliber (which included Velveeta and I being the youngest people present by a good 15 years). It's not that I'm shunning my geek ways, but there are some things that are just eating my time that I can't go without (yard work and eating the highest class of food are both in this class).

I'm hoping to play some more games. I have downloaded Castlevania: SotN on the 360, and I have Oblivion on the PC. I have not touched Oblivion yet, but I've played through about 5% of C:SotN. On that note, I do have to say that the 360 controller may be an awesome FPS controller and it may be solid for 3D games and racing. However, for a classic 2D game, this is the worst excuse of a controller possible. We saw it with Street Fighter 2, and I'm now seeing it again with C:SotN. Trying to successfully pull off a spell is nothing short of a chore that requires more luck than skill.

Anyway, I think I'm stuck playing games I've already played before until a month or two passes, at the very least. The summer game drought has officially begun, and this is a time to do some spring cleaning and play those old gems that would normally be overwhelmed by the newest flavor of the week.


Malik (5/02/07)  

It now looks like Puzzle Quest is making the right move. That is, it's moving on to the XBox Live Arcade. That is the perfect venue for this type of game, since we've already seen how well casual puzzle games do on the Arcade. When you toss in how the PC version (still not released) was able to tempt so many people, including myself, with a free demo, this works ideally with the Arcade.

Once this game hits the Arcade, I have to recommend a free trial download to anyone who didn't take up the free PC demo of this game (or had the PC demo crash their it did to my pre-upgrade desktop). I should have written a review of Puzzle Quest, since it's been my favorite DS game of 2007. However, I failed in that task due to just having too much going on (like moving to my house during the time that I was a PQ addict), but I would easily give this game, or the DS version at least, a 9+ out of 10. If the Arcade version is a port of the DS or PSP version, but without the bugs of the PSP version, then this would easily be worth the price of admission.

I'm now trying to juggle two interests. I have on the 360 Arcade my frustrating time of enjoying Castlevania: SotN and how the 360 controller doesn't fit any side scrolling games (nor does it fit games with Street Fighter 2 inspired special move execution...just try the classic down>down+forward.forward'll see what I mean...try it on either SF2 or start it with up prior to the down to forward roll on the demo of C:SotN and see if you pull off anything more times than you fail). It's still great fun to play C:SotN on a system that doesn't require me to try to find my old Playstation memory cards...but I could use a good controller to help even things out a bit.

That, and replacing the original start and select button schemes onto the 360 forward and back buttons. For some reason, the menu is now back and the map screen is now on the left trigger. This opens forward (start) for some XBox Arcade menu, that does nothing for the game and only serves as a quick way to access the help menu to check the controller layout...which is unneeded in a game like this.

My other new obsession is trying out Oblivion on the PC with full mod access. I hated that Bethesda made many promises that they would treat the PC and 360 owners of Oblivion the same and, ultimately, the PC players got all of the love. You can get all of the pay content for a lower price on the PC and without internet access (which shouldn't be needed for a completely offline RPG) via the Knights of the Nine expansion pack, but you need Live access for this same content on the 360. I wouldn't take any of this pay-for-play crap, but it's obvious that the PC players got a little more love. Also, the mod community is active on the PC version, but Bethesda never attempted to even this field for the 360 Oblivion owners.

I also am becoming addicted thanks to the mods. When you add in things like the BT Mod (you have smaller text on the menus so you don't have only 8 spells or items as the maximum on the inventory screen), enhanced environments (damned nice with a powerful video card), and some other mods that just make the game more enjoyable, it's obvious who Bethesda cares about the most. hey didn't make most of these mods, but they did allow user mod access, while failing to deliver their vague promises of trying user PC mods on the 360 version, as they claimed to attempt a year and a half ago.

The only advantage of the 360 version is how HDR lighting and anti aliasing are present on the 360, while you can only chose one or the other on the PC version (without an ATI video card and an update). I so wish I could use both on my 8800 GTS and really see what this game could offer something more on the cutting edge.

Well, there's not much else to say tonight. It's a slow day in the news side of things, and a chaotic day in my shoes. The perfect mix to keep me exhausted or fatigued and bored at the same time.


Malik (5/03/07)  

Felonies, misdemeanors, and incompetence.  But enough about my work day...

On the 5th of June, Bethesda will be unveiling their trailer for Fallout 3. I wish I could be excited about this project. Afterall, Fallout and Fallout 2 were some of the best PC RPGs to ever come along. They offered an amazing world, an awesome game engine, a great sense of openness and freedom, and a wonderful Mad Max and 1950's inspired sense of humor that has not been touched by any other project. By all accounts, Fallout 3 should continue the tradition of giving us the best of PC RPG experiences...

However, Bethesda has not exactly been on the top of their game in the last few years. Yes, Morrowind was an amazing game, and Oblivion did give us quite a project to behold. However, with how Oblivion was nerfed and bastardized into a "user friendly" experience, instead of a hardcore RPG that would frighten all but the most avid of RPG enthusiasts, there is something wrong in the big B. If Bethesda takes the Oblivion route with Fallout, then things might turn very ugly very quickly.

For one thing, if the game takes away any of the skills and abilities that first gave Fallout 1 & 2 their charm to enthusiasts, then there will be a loss of excitement from the core audience. This game should be friendly on the outside, but hardcore and cold on the inside. It should not be a game for everyone. It should be a game that only continues to push the boundaries, and doesn't go the Oblivion way of replacing the boundaries with fuzzy feelings.

Also, I've yet to see Bethesda pull off anything that was not a first person RPG. To come in with the purchase and continuation of a third person party based RPG is not something one would expect Bethesda to handle with the same finesse. Parties and third person are both uncharted and unfamiliar territories for them, and of all projects to start with, Fallout 3 will not be one they could afford to mess with.

My other fear is that Fallout 1 and 2 were both friendly to technology. In other words, you did not need the best system on the street in order to enjoy them. However, Morrowind and especially Oblivion are technology whores. If you don't have the best PC right now, you will not fully appreciate Oblivion...a game that's over a year old. I even find my brand new machine struggling to keep up with 40+ frames per second, despite having an overclocked Core 2 Duo (E6300 at 3.06 GHz), GeForce 8800 GTS (with 640 MB RAM), 3 GB of DDR2 RAM, SATA HDD, and running the disk straight from an ISO on a virtual drive on that same SATA HDD (since my DVD drive only slowed the system when I ran the game from it). Oblivion is a technology whore 15 months later. This better not be the case for Fallout 3.

The only part of Bethesda continuing Fallout that I can be excited about is how they treat the mod community. Maybe Fallout 3 will be given the same easy to use tools to make custom mods. If that's the case, this could be a fun experience in one aspect. Imagine something like OOO being brought over to the Fallout 3 world, if Bethesda does enough things to nerf the world. That would be freakin' amazing!

Speaking of all of this, I just started my new game of Oblivion. I've downloaded most of the mods I wanted (especially the visual enhancements, like Natural Water, etc.) and have them running seamlessly. Now that it's all working, I'm thinking of adding OOO to my arsenal and giving one last fresh start to give me a far better game experience than my 360 Oblivion days.

I may have been wrong with something I said before. I said that Oblivion lacked replay because of the scaled loot and enemies. Well, I think it's more that Oblivion on the 360 lacked replayability, while the PC, with OOO and other mods, more than makes up for all of this.


Malik (5/04/07)  

Sony finally made the smart and obvious choice of making Playstation downloads over the PS3 to be playable on the PS3. Considering the PS3 is supposed to be backwards compatible enough to handle PSX and PS2 games, it would only make sense for them to get the PSP out of the "required" list.

However, that, on it's own, makes this move into one quite unlike Sony. They are not requiring excessive money/investment (in the form of needing a PSP). That's like Sony offering a new console at the lowest price of all competitors. That's like Sony making quality electronics with a long proven track record of reliability. That's like Sony not lying or deceiving in any way. Of course, with Ken Kutaragi out of the picture, maybe this will be the direction Sony heads.

If so...all I can say is this; It's about damned time.

Now we just need Microsoft to become smart about one subject; the 360 HDD. The lack of HDDs being on all 360s is hurting their progress and potential. As (vaguely) said by Dan Houser, of GTA fame, the HDD not being required is only limiting the 360. It's about time for Microsoft to at least, if not make HDDs required hardware, to allow some developers to make games that require them. Microsoft said all games would be limited to 1000 points for achievements, and Oblivion (thanks to it's expansion) broke that. Arcade games were limited to 50MB...but Castlevania: SotN broke that one. This whole deal of not requiring the HDD needs to be changed before GTA IV makes it to market.

I downloaded and installed OOO for Oblivion last night. I seriously have to say that it's amazing to see what some people will do for free. OOO 1.31 clocks in at nearly 500MB, it's free, and it completely removes so many problems with the original Oblivion. All the while, it adds so much new content that I cannot believe that I'm playing the same game at times. Toss in BT Mod, and I am fully aware that this is why I should only buy Bethesda games on the PC now on. The 360 may offer ease of use, but it's nothing compared to a dedicated army of homebrew mod makers.

With all of the changes, however, I have to say that it's one of the smallest ones that the most amazing. The messages about "you cannot do this", "you are short on magica", "you are over encumbered" have all been changed to the first person. It's minor, it's small, and it really ups the role playing value since it's no longer like you have the eyes of some random dude on you at all times to remind you of the simple things.

That's not to say that adding new dungeons, new NPS, new factions, and new creatures is not amazing. It is. It's also amazing to see the scaling of leveled items and mobs being corrected from the original crap Bethesda planned. It now pays to level up. No longer do you feel like you need to finish the game at a low level (so the random monsters never become strong). It now is not about finishing the game early and wondering why you're on this quest when the town guards are always more powerful. Now it's an epic quest about you being the only one who can be strong enough to save the world.

Well, I need to play some Oblivion. I need to play my new evil avatar to get out some of the frustrations of working a day job that makes me feel like I'm in a cross between Enron, Office Space, and Outbreak.


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