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Malik (5/15/06)  

Well, I obviously had no post on Friday. I actually had something prepared (wow...that sounds like an excuse that I'd use in high school), but things turned a bit different than I expected. I went to the concert on Friday that I counted on, but I was just too tired at the end of the night to do anything more than collapse in bed. I didn't count on The Aquabats rocking so damned hard! If there is any one band that can go beyond the call of duty at a concert, it's The Aquabats.

For the most part, the stuff I had prepared for Friday wasn't too important in the grand scheme of things. I had some thoughts on the PS3 controller (it's not really stealing from Nintendo, since the tilt technology was in controllers on the PC from Microsoft before the Wii controller was ever shown...although adding this technology right now is an obvious indication that they are trying to ride on Nintendo's efforts as an easy way to get some attention), and a bit of news that the highly anticipated Frame City Killer is now the highly canceled Frame City Killer...a shame considering how hyped that game was.

Also, on new info, I think this is really funny. NCSoft is threatening to not only boycott E3 next year, but they are supposedly thinking of planning a "party" really close to E3. Why? Because of childish behavior from all...

Well, actually it's more of Sega sounding like whiney brats, and then NCSoft coming back by acting the same. Supposedly, Sega personnel were waiting on their shared border with NCSoft's booth at E3. They were armed to the teeth with decibel meters. As soon as NCSoft broke the noise requirements of E3 (done skillfully by having live music...since Tabula Rasa and Mutaytor go together is Mutaytor tied in with Tabula Rasa? I'm probably not alone in wondering this. Anyway, the Sega people, according to NCSoft, were waiting for noise infractions and then ran to ESA (who runs E3) with noise complaints. So, then NCSoft was fined $5000 for breaking the rules. To which, Fred Schmidt (one of NCSoft's VPs) responded by threatening to hold a "party" next year away from E3, because they are just too damned cool (my words...with plenty of sarcasm) for this group.

IF Sega did have people waiting for an infraction by using decibel meters, and IF they ran to ESA with complaints of noises that were really close to the allowed limits (and would thus be non-discernable from allowable levels), THEN Sega would be acting pretty pettily. However, this whole NCSoft behavior smacks of juvenile attention grabbing. However, the thing I find amusing is that NCSoft simply doesn't have enough clout in America to take the American game conference and threaten a boycott. That would be like an employee in the mailroom of some major corporation threatening to boycott work because he's not allowed to use his iPod while working. Now, if Sega, Nintendo, blah, blah, were planning to boycott E3, that may be newsworthy...instead of sounding like a little kid who's in need of some nap-time.

Anyway, I'm keeping things short today. I managed to mess up my back yesterday (the perils of trying to fit a 45,000 BTU grill into the back of a does work, but not too well...and in several trips...and a pulled muscle or two...but...yeah...), and it's making it hard to sit in front of a keyboard.


Malik (5/16/06)  

It's going to be one hell of a crazy week. My interviews (for finding a better day job) are keeping me on the verge of insanity. I had one yesterday, and then tomorrow I get to have my first one that requires getting cleared by their security prior to entering the building. It's like getting an interview with some federally controller center...only it's a standard issue lab in the private sector. Anyway, I'll try to not let it interfere with my postings, but we never know...

New Super Mario Bros should be out today in most regions. By that, I mean that the "date" is today for the game, which means some stores will have it, and some will be shipping it today. As a word of advice, if you live near a Fry's, that should be the place to get it (about $10 cheaper).

I don't know if I'll get the game tonight, since I didn't bother with pre-ordering the game, and I get off work after many of the soccer moms have already picked it up for their spoiled little brats...I mean special and precious children. Either way, I should have some impressions pretty soon, as in the next couple of days. However, the movies being shown by Nintendo are nothing short of awe inspiring. On top of that, the reviews have been looking really solid so far.

I think this should be the perfect example of what has been missing from the gaming world, and what we will probably not see too much of in the future; 2D side scrolling, old-school fun. In fact, if it wasn't for the DS and the GBA both having so much of a fan base and just barely limited technology, we would probably be done with 2D platformers by now...despite how they are still serving up the most solid gaming experiences.

If you look at many of the most popular and influential games in the platformer/adventure genres, you'd usually see the games going downhill as 3D is forced upon them. However, at the same time, the people with big voices (the publishers and the heads of development studios) tend to be of a mind set that defies explanation; always push the envelope technologically rather than pushing the entertainment value of games. This is why we had one of the best games in history, Castlevania SotN, as the last great non-portable entry in it's franchise, despite numerous sequels that followed.

Despite how 2D games don't fill whole CDs (not to mention DVDs), and they are usually quicker to program, they still hold some valuable lessons to learn from. While not all 3D transitions are completely bad (Mario Sunshine and Mario 64 were both good fun), they just don't live up to the 2D games of the past. I know if I had one Mario, it would not be a 3D one, one Castlevania would not be 3D, one Sonic would not be 3D, or one of any other game that forced the transition.

In fact, this sorta ties in to what I'm loving about the Wii...Nintendo is not pushing technology or visuals, but rather they are trying to push pure enjoyment. That is what we need right now more than anything, as the market gets clouded with imitators, poor excuses for tech demos, and other half-assed attempts to make a quick buck (EA and Ubi...looking right at you when I say that), it might be time for more companies to reevaluate their roots and see if they can pinpoint the moment when games when from being fun to being pretty.

Anyway, I think I jumped subjects a few too many times right there. Long story short, to finish on another random subject shift, if you have a flat tire, Les Schwab is a great place to get it fixed since they will do it for free.

Confused? Good.


Malik (5/17/06)  

Random thoughts to start things off.  First of all, I'm glad to see that with the TV commercial for New Super Mario Bros, that Nintendo is being smart enough to mainly show game play.  While the Smash Melee commercial was awesome (the one with Yoshi, Mario, etc, all holding hands and skipping in a park when they start to brawl), the modern trend in game commercials is getting pretty weak.  Either you have completely irrelevant imagery for a good deal of the game (like many DS commercials) and then a second of actual game play, or you have what I like to call "the CoD process".  This would be when some cut scenes, or even CGI visuals not from the actual game, are shown for the entire commercial.  Hell, Activision even got sued in Europe over the CoD commercials.

So, when NSMB has ads that arre nothing more than series of video from the actual game being played, I am glad.  It makes me remember the glory days, when all video game commercials would show more of the game and less of the fluff (except certain George Plimton randomness...scroll down a ways...).  What a time to have been alive for...sigh...

Anyway, to get more focused, I did get NSMB yesterday.  And I did play a shit ton of the game between last night and up until this is posted (my game is on pause as I type).  It is, to be succinct about it, great.  It's not the best Mario ever (I personally hold World and Bros 3 as the best of the series/franchise).  It still is definitely one of the better Mario games, which is saying it's freakin' sweet as opposed to just being good fun.

However, I am a little sad at some of the problems with the game...yes, there are problems.  The biggest problem I have is the timer.  While timers are nothing new in Mario games, I think it should be done away with.  However, failing that, let's at least make them reasonable.  I had never honestly ran out of time on a Mario stage in any game, ever.  That was until last night...I have now lost about 10 lives from the timer running out.  While I may be a little slow on some levels (there are hidden exits and items, like in World), some of them just don't give you any room to breathe.

Another issue I have is that the worlds are pretty linear.  Unlike World, in which many hidden areas existed, most of the hidden places in NSMB are just toadstool houses (to get items from, like in Mario 3).  There are only around one or two hidden bonus stages per world in this one.  Also, to make things a bit more frustrating, you have no indication of which stage holds the secret exits to find the hidden areas from.  It's nothing too serious, but it is a minor annoyance in this game.

However, beyond that, the game is quite solid.  The physics (once you get used to them), the visuals, and the audio are all top notch, and the levels are great fun.  Overall, the game is a great addition to the franchise, and the new elements (like the three new powerups) are great.

Well, I am posting early, and being more abrupt today since I have too much to do.


Malik (5/18/06)  

Some more PS3 launch info is making it into the pipeline, now that E3 is over. While most of it is weak and obvious information, some of it can paint a rather vivid picture of what the holiday season will look like for the PS3.

In fact, from how it sounds, the PS3 will have a pretty bland holiday season. It's not that surprising since the first few months (or even the first year) of a console's life is usually weak and unimpressive. It was true for the XBox, the PSX, the PS2, the 360, blah, blah. There is rarely any launch that carries any real blockbusters (notice the "s" on the end of "blockbusters"). We may occasionally have a Halo, or a...actually it's pretty rare for even a single blockbuster to appear at launch.

Anyway, the PS3 is expecting "up to 15" launch titles...which, in time, will turn into something like 10-12...and then it may even be reduced to a single digit count. This is just common sense. Games get delayed, games get canceled, and life moves forward.

However, the most important bit of info I found was how the development kits are not in the hands of many developers, yet. This means that instead of these companies trying to force a poorly developed launch title on the market (for the initial install time frame), they will either be delayed or will be just flat out horrible in quality. For example, look at a lot of 360 launch titles...most of them were nothing short of half-assed attempts to make previous generation games on a next generation platform (like with Madden, Gun, THAW, PDZ, etc).

On another note, there's a take by DFC Intelligence (one of those analyst if there's not enough being said by analysts) on the price issue of the PS3. I seriously don't see their prediction (of the industry being hurt by the higher system price) as carrying much merit. If you look at the 360, you may have seen some people buy it for $400 (or $300), but not that many did when you look at the bigger picture and how much people were willing to be gouged.

eBay carried 360s for well over $1000, Gamestop had bundles going for over $1000, and some stores were even going well above the MSRP. Why? Because we (not as in you specifically, or myself...but consumers as a whole) would be willing to put a dent on our credit cards for a new system. The same will happen with the PS3. We will buy it (once again, not me...but consumers will), and we will go crazy for it.

In fact, we live in a credit friendly society. We also live in a society that looks at a new piece of technology as more than the sum of it's parts, but also as a status symbol, an "investment" (that always cracks me a PS3 is some collectors coin or plate or some lame shit), and as a necessity. The system will sell, and it will sell out. While some may just want it for the Blu-ray movie player, not many will fall into that group. Most will buy the "game" system and these people will buy games.

To say the $600 price tag will hurt the industry is a nice thought (since it would limit support from developers for future $500+ consoles), but it's not the reality of the situation. On top of that, no matter how expensive, faulty, or frustrating that Sony electronics become, they are (for some unknown reason) a trusted brand with a lot of loyalty in their customer base. Sony may take a small hit, but it won't be seen until the final numbers are counted in 5+ years, and the industry won't even had known anything was amiss.


Malik (5/19/06)  

Personally, I'm happy with Windows XP. It's the first Windows OS that has not failed me on more occasions than it helped me. It's the most logical of Microsoft's OSes, and it's the most user friendly. In fact, I've actually taken a new appreciation of Microsoft from XP. On the other hand, Vista is around the corner (well, right now it's more of "around the corner, down the block, and the first driveway on the left" with it's 2007 release date).

I really am skeptical about Vista. For one thing, I don't know much of the details, but I do know that the "3D Desktop" concept seems like some nerdy attempt to bring Star Trek to our PCs. I really don't see what type of benefits I'd get from Vista. In fact, from the limited information available, I think the only really important changes Vista will offer are to 360 owners (with the "Live Anywhere" thing to play multiplayer 360 games with PC users if they have the same game...with the PC version) and those who wanted the Media Connect (mainly 360 owners) but never had Windows XP MCE 2005.

I mention this whole thing because Microsoft has released some of the requirements for Vista. I'm not too happy about this, to tell the truth. If this is supposed to be a OS, and not just an attempt to make a gaming platform, I seriously wonder about requiring a 64+MB GPU. I know of a good deal of people who are not gamers, but like using XP on their PCs. I also know that any attempt to tell these people that they should upgrade their video cards is usually met with strong resistance, and the best these people ever have even considered is a 32MB card. So, if 64MB video cards will be the minimum, I know that Microsoft is going to make a few unhappy campers.

In fact, beyond everything, I know of a lot of institutions (like my current employer, the college I graduated from, etc) that are firm believers in running the oldest and most decrepit computers possible. The computer I use at work makes my home computer look awesome...I don't mean my current PC (which would smoke my work machine), but the PC I had about 8 years ago, when my work PC was new. I also know that these same groups have a strong love of running the latest OS possible.

What this means for Microsoft is that these groups are cash-cows. However, they will all return Vista so fast that it would make Microsoft's head spin when they see they have to upgrade their video cards (which would amount to turning their PCs, in their eyes, into gaming machines). In a nut shell, this type of requirement is going to alienate a lot of potential Vista purchasers. In fact, I will be more hesitant to upgrade, just because higher requirements usually mean more room for problems and incompatibility issues.

Anyway, that's my hung-over rant about Vista. I really don't get the direction that Microsoft is trying to head in. I think they are making some weird choices and that these could alienate some of their customer base.

Last night I finished New Super Mario Bros. I wish I could be more excited, but this game has almost no replay value. True, a lot of Mario games had the same issue, but this one is ridiculous in how little I feel compelled to play anymore. On one hand, the 2 player versus mode is not my cup o' tea. I like co-op, and I really don't like the idea of Mario being always violent towards Luigi, if you catch my meaning. Why can't the brothers get along. Secondly, I had Mario 64 DS (ok, I still do have it). I have those mini-games, and I actually enjoyed them for a long time...for several months...but then again, I got tired of them about a year or so before NSMB was released. They are old, and if Nintendo wanted to do things right, they would have had some new mini-games and tried some originality.

I'll try to write up a review (I mean it this time) for NSMB in the coming week. I did enjoy the game, but I feel like some elements of the game have been overlooked in the average reviews.


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