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Malik (5/14/07)  

Last week I was mentioning how my lack of trust in Square Enix was always rewarded with crappy games. Quite frankly, Square Enix does not make any new games that are worthy of attention of worthy of the $50-$60 price of admission. The only exceptions have been the ports and remakes of old Final Fantasy games from the SNES and NES era.

Well, the group that brought us the remake of FF3 for the DS is now remaking FF4 for the DS. It's a nice idea, but this one may also be another pointless game. While FF4 has a really fun plot that was kept a little too simplistic because of the technology of the day, and this would be it an ideal candidate for being remade, it also has been ported more times that one should see.

FF4 has now graced the SNES, PSX, WonderSwan, and GBA. With a new remake, it will come to the DS. No single game should have this many incarnations unless it's a puzzle game like Tetris. Even a puzzle game would be pushing it's luck with so many releases over such a large time frame.

Of course, by complaining about too many releases of the game, I'm probably setting myself up to be a hypocrite, once again. Once FF4 is remade on the DS and it's released, I wouldn't be surprised to see me in a frantic mood trying to hunt it down at the local electronics retailers. I have spent too much money on FF4 as it is, but I feel compelled...if it's as good of a remake as FF3 was on the DS...I will need to buy this game.

I just wish Square Enix could bring this type of attention and hype to it's old school fans over some new material. Afterall, I don't think I'm the only fan of their games from the SNES and NES era who is not all that excited about another emo-centric romp through a bland but colorful world that will be known as FFXIII.

Anyway, it's a short post today because my time is quite short.


Malik (5/15/07)  

One of my favorite puzzle games of all time was Mario's Picross on the GB. This game came along, with very little publicity, back in the mid 1990's. It's also one of the few puzzle games I constantly find myself coming back to, despite having finished it a dozen times over. So, if the listing on Gamestop is correct, then the new Picross game for the DS may be in the future for America.

I have not heard anything about this game up until now. It's no surprise since the original was given so little attention. However, there have been various and numerous Picross games on Nintendo systems in Japan over the years since the original (the only one we Americans got) came along. Of course, the times have changed. The DS is being marketed for more casual of gamers, which implies more puzzle games and less action titles. So, it's prime time for a new US release for a Picross game.

Also, the DS should make the ideal play field for a game that involves breaking single tiles on 5x5, 10x10, and 15x15 grids of squares. I hope this is not some confusion from a retailer, as we've seen many times in the past, and is the truth...the wonderful truth that Picross will return to America in the middle of the summer (around the end of July). For once, this could mean there will be a summer game released that makes me want to spend money for the first time since the old SNES days.

If it does come along, and if you're a puzzle fan, this is a game that you owe it to yourself to buy...and hopefully good sales will entice Nintendo to keep showing America the Picross love.

I won't go into too much detail on this subject change, since some people probably have it TiVo'ed and have not seen it yet...but Heroes was f#@$ing amazing last night. For all of the time that I've spent the last 9 months wondering what is wrong with this season of Lost, I'm glad to see that Heroes is doing it all correctly.

When Lost was hyped a few weeks ago about how numerous people would die before the season was over, Lost said nothing. So when people started to die on Lost, I thought it was both unsurprising and also the people who've died so far (Locke's father, for example) just didn't matter. Meanwhile, Heroes said nothing in advance while important people were finished off in the most brutal of ways.

Some minor spoilers follow, so you can end today's post now if you don't want them to ruin any recorded Heroes.

First off, when the Isaac/Peter love triangle was ended by their love interest, Simone, being killed by Isaac's stupidity and rage, it was amazing to see. Then, when Isaac finally met his end, it was even more amazing and unexpected. However, that was nothing compared to the triple kill of last night's episode. Between Malcolm McDowell's character (I know his name, but he's always Malcolm McDowell...the crazy and surprising "British guy") having his brain smashed apart by a phased out fist to the skull, the boss of the paper mill (I actually never did know his name...Bennet's boss) being shot repeated Soprano style by his former pupil, and Ted having his brain removed by Sylar...damn! I figured Ted was a goner, since Sylar needed the radioactive power of his to conclude the story arc of this season, but the other two blew me away.

While Lost gives an expected death (since they announce, each week, that one the next weeks Lost, "one of these characters will not survive") and of minor characters, Heroes goes the other route. Nothing is announced (well...almost nothing...there was one death announced prior to the winter hiatus), nothing is planned out for the viewer, and there is no way of guessing what would come. When Sylar was coming back to reality last week, only to go completely insane after accidentally killing his insane mother...expected, that was not.

Most of all, I don't know of any show I've seen in which I want all the characters to live, but I also want them to die because I know the writing will make it worthwhile. It's not like Lost, which is poorly limited in potential numbers of people due to the island. Heroes has 6 billion people to pull from as a potential cast, and they seem to be ready to use anyone and everyone long as it makes for an amazing plot. I just hope that the next season of Heroes keeps up the pace and excitement of the first season. Since this is more like reading a moving comic series than watching a TV series, I think they can keep it up.

I just hope Ando, Hiro, and Mr. Nakamura remain in the series for a long time to come. Especially, it's nice seeing Geroge Tekai playing a part that's bad ass and not just him saying "oh my!" repeatedly.


Malik (5/16/07)  

It looks more and more like Starcraft 2 may become a reality...or not. It's always hard to say with any certainty what Blizzard is up to until they do it. However, given how Blizzard has been so forthcoming with sequels and spin-offs of the major franchise (Warcraft), it seems more than likely that they would want to cash in on the obsession for Korea that Starcraft is. Plus, it's not like Starcraft is completely forgotten by the rest of the world.

It would be nice to see a more modern take on the ultra-futuristic RTS that was Starcraft. At the same time, I really can't find too much excitement for this possible news (come Saturday, we should see for certain what Blizzard's next announcement really is). The RTS world has both changed and stagnated over the last few years. While Warcraft 3 was pretty cutting edge for it's time, we've seen a lot of changes in the last couple of years.

Rise of Nations helped to change what we all expect from the RTS genre. It gave a deeper sense of wonder by adding more defined of technology, wonders, and other nice touches that helped to better blend RTS and turn based strategy. Then games like Savage helped to further change things by giving an RTS/FPS hybrid that changed some more perceptions of the genre. The list could go on.

I just hope, if Blizzard is working on a new game in an RTS series, that they give it some reason to really be important in this clouded and overly stuffed marketplace. We have new entries in Command and Conquer, the "Rise of" series, and a few separate independent RTS titles. There is a lot out there, and there is little to really bring about distinction to any of the newer titles. It's merely becoming the same game with different visuals.

The other change I'd like to see, and I imagine a majority of the players of Starcraft in Korea would like as well, is for Starcraft 2, if it does materialize, to not be a technology whore. C&C3, AoE3, Rise of Legends, and many other new RTS games have been pushing technology and system requirements a bit too hard lately. It's one thing for a very immersive game, like Oblivion or Half-Life 2, to push what our boxes need to run a's another thing when the same basic game play as what we had many years (or even decades) ago had but the visuals are killing what we can play. RTS is not immersive enough to justify any major system requirements, but it does not stop.

In fact, besides the games that serve to be the flagship for DX10 (like Crysis), I think it's time for more developers to use what's readily available and not to force what is cutting edge. For example, I just spent a large chunk of cash (well over $1000) on upgrades to an existing box. I would like to think that by having what was the 2nd best video card at the time, and a CPU that's overclocked beyond what the best basic clock speed CPU on the market would allow me to skip any required upgrades for the next couple of years. I know this won't happen, but it would be nice to see the developers appreciate my cash for what it will bring them...not for what it will bring Intel, Nvidia, and Corsair.


Malik (5/17/07)  

It's good to see that Bomberman is finally coming to the 360. I don't mean that lame excuse for Bomberman that was Bomberman Zero. In fact, I will pretend that Hudson never did anything that lame while passing it off as part of their awe inspiring multiplayer party frag fest. Zero was a perfect reason and explanation of why I have given up on Square Enix (with the exception of remakes of old FF games on the DS, and anything in the main line of Dragon Quest titles).

When an old franchise is returned to the present gaming world, it should never break so far away from the original that it alienates it's fans. For example, I mentioned Starcraft 2 yesterday. If it comes along with system killing requirements, it will not be a good option for the major fanbase...Korea. The original game is so damned popular in Korea because it doesn't push PCs to the limits. It's nice and gentle on the hardware side of things, which allows for large numbers of people to enjoy it without having to sacrifice time and money in major upgrades. Even when the original Starcraft came along, it didn't push too many systems over the edge.

Another great example is Final Fantasy Tactics. The original PSX game was probably one of the last Square games that didn't invoke a sense of frustration and rage in me...with me being an old school Square fan from the second game of the American Square catalogue (King's Knight was weak...). However, when the second supposed FF Tactics game came along on the GBA (that would be FFT Advance), it took all of the amazing plot, classes, abilities, and fun and threw them out the window. Instead, we were introduced to Ivalice (which became the hellish setting for another lame Square Enix title...FFXII), given the worst excuse for innovation to ever come from Square Enix (the judge and law system), and the game just felt weak and unfulfilling in comparison.

Well, a new FFT game is in the works for the DS. It would be FFTA 2. While it could have gone back the way of the more critically and casually acclaimed FFT game (the PSX one), it is instead continuing Square Enix's money hungry and creativity deprived ways. Yes, it will be in Ivalice. Yes, it will feature judges. Yes, it will feature laws. Yes, Square Enix claims that they will be improved in this new game, but I really can't hold out anymore hope. The first FFT game claimed my life for about three play through, around 180 total hours, and for many great and amazing moments. FFTA held my attention for a whole 2 minutes (boy with teddy bear being the heir to the throne of a mystical world made up of ridiculous laws is not a good way to grab anyone's attention). I was able to play for about 5 hours before I had to quit. Once I hit a battle with a law of "no swords" and half my party wielded swords, I knew this game was not the FFT I knew and loved.

I guess what I'm saying could be summarized like this;

Bomberman is coming back and he's no longer some half-assed version. Sweet!

Starcraft 2, if it does come along, needs to be lighter on system requirements. To keep it's large fan base, the system reqs need to be carefully balanced.

All PC games need to focus a bit more on pushing existing hardware and not forcing upgrades. When a game is of a genre that is not visually intense (RTS, strategy, most RPGs) or if it's an OS (Windows Vista's Aero...I'm looking at you), hardware needs to be balanced with abilities and needs of the game. That, and mod friendly games, like Oblivion, are the way to go when some developer is going to be so damned overzealous (like how Oblivion has Oldblivion) with requirements. Imagine how sweet of effects we could see with older hardware if PC games were forced to use an existing set of hardware for larger time frames, like we see with consoles.

Lastly, Square Enix needs to take a step back to look at the big picture. I know of several old school Square fans and several old school Enix fans. I know of only one person who actually likes the direction Square Enix has been going...while I know of many other who simply like to sigh and say that at least Namco can give us that old school RPG feeling with Tales games. Square Enix may have hit the mainstream rather nicely, but some love and some balance should be shown for the fans who made both of these sides of the company into what it is today...and DQ is not enough of a compromise with a new game every four years.

In particular, Square Enix needs to bring about a new FFT game that updates and brings new material to the original Zodiac story (maybe without the broken mathematician class...most broken RPG class ever). That, and if Square Enix is going to keep going for the easy money route, may I suggest the overly obvious; FFVII: The Remake.


Malik (5/18/07)  

I spent most of last night in severe pain. Nothing like a migraine to make one hate the act of...well...any act of any sort except for finally falling asleep. I had a lot of plans for Oblivion last night (mods to add and quests to do), but those all had to come to an end. The only thing I had the ability to do was prove an old saying wrong.

I have been told more than a dozen times in my life that if a HDD fails, then it's f$#@ed without hope. In particular, if you head one of the heads physically sticking or "clunking" inside the box, then your pretty much shit out of luck. Well, when my iPod did that, I simply took matters into my own violent hands. A few smacks against my palm as I manually reset the thing got it back up and running. I was told that this was a fluke and that it would not be a long term solution. That was a year ago, and I am right now using that same iPod to listen to some good old Social Distortion. Looks like some conventional wisdom fails when violence is involved.

So, as Velveeta set up some of the computer equipment in our house, I was told that the backup desktop was making a weird noise and failing to boot up. I struggled to leave the dark comfort of my bed and walked to the computer room. I turned on the PC and heard the familiar noise of a HDD physically destroying itself. That's when I unscrewed the side panel and decided to smack the HDD (what's the hard when it's f#@$ed as it stands) with the handle of my screwdriver a few times. I reboot the machine, and saw that comforting (and annoying) Windows logo pop up.

So far, my record is this. Two physically crashing HDDs, two acts of violence, and two now working HDDs. I love proving that violence does solve problems.

On a different note, it looks like Eidos may be resurrecting Deus Ex in the near future. If the conditions were different, I would be excited. While Deus Ex: IW was not exactly the best of games in a lot of ways, I still loved the plot and the direction. I think that Warren Spector, despite what some may say, is a genius when it comes to directing PC game development. He has a knack for blending great storytelling with a fun and immersive game environment.

I also think that continuing this franchise after Warren Spector departed Ion Storm to do other things is a huge mistake. I feel that certain franchises need to end when their masterminds leave. The next Katamari game has me concerned without it's founding mind behind it, but at least it's a simple enough of concepts to be pulled off correctly. However, Deus Ex is anything but simple and lighthearted. Without Spector, Deus Ex will not have a head on it's shoulders, and there is too much potential for bad things to come about from this.

I will give the new game a shot, if it really does materialize. However, I will also not expect too much from it, and I will be beyond cautious with my enthusiasm. If it's done right, the next game can be amazing...even if the plot seemed to be fully resolved after how Deus Ex: IW showed the fate of Denton and tied it all together with the start of the franchise. Of course, I am more expecting some sort of game that just fails to compel the gamer.

My ultimate hope would be for the game to be rebooted, so to speak. Take the same world, but move away from Denton (since that was all wrapped up nicely). Also, revert back to the skill system of the first Deus Ex, but maybe with some tweaks to make it more accessible (but without removing it like was done in Invisible War). In fact, for a game like this, I think that the system should be a blend between Oblivion's skill progression (easy to use) and the original Deus Ex's system (one that can offer a lot of customization and change the way the game is played for each player).

Well, it's time to wrap this up for tonight. I have some chores and other boring "adult" things to do. At least this weekend promises to bring me a lot of drinking and LAN party goodness.


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