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Malik (6/26/07)  

I didn't post yesterday. It wasn't because of having too much to do or being too caught up on Oblivion. It wasn't even from me feeling like crap (although I did have a nice attack of sleep deprivation). It was for the simple reason that I had nothing to talk about. I've been playing Oblivion, and no real news came along yesterday. That left me with a lot of dead space if I tried to post.

There have been a lot of Wii Virtual Console games so far. However, most of them have been either an exercise in releasing the generic and boring titles, or in releasing the games that everyone already has on other systems. The only exception, for me, has been either the very uncommon games (Beyond Oasis) or the Turbo Grafix titles that no one ever played because no one seemed to have a Turbo Grafix.

Finally, I have a game to get excited about. F-Zero X, which I'd call the best of the F-Zero franchise and the true peak of fast paced arcade racing, is now on the VC. This is the one game I have been waiting for more than anything else (with the possible exception of Majora's Mask, since I still have yet to play that game...the only Zelda that was made for a Nintendo console that I have not played). With it's fast pace, the brutal way in which you're awarded for killing off opponents, and the Death Race mode (my specialty and my favorite F-Zero event), this is a game I definitely classify as "must have".

To make things even better for people who like to use their consoles for games not found on DVDs or Blu-Ray disks, Carcassonne is coming to the 360 Arcade on Wednesday. If you have not played this game or heard of it, I'd just like to say it's a great example of addictive multiplayer gaming. Best of all, Sierra is including, in the game download, the river expansion set. It's really good to not only see another fun title coming to the Arcade, but also one that doesn't try to price gouge customers with requiring further payment for expansions from day one (unlike a certain Lumines).

Sadly, these new games on the 360 and Wii will continue to escape my notice. I have Oblivion taking up all of my free time, still. After that, I have a back log forming of games I need to play. I figure that I won't even look at my consoles, beyond an occasional jam session of Guitar Hero 2, for another three months, at least. The next game that will probably pull me back to console gaming will most likely be GTA4...and that's only if the good mods stop coming along for Oblivion.


Malik (6/27/07)  

The Manhunt 2 thing (with it's AO rating and massive bannings around the globe) is still continuing as Take Two has yet to announce any final plans to get the game released. It's pretty obvious that Manhunt 2 will be released at some point. Time and, more importantly, money have gone into making this game that no one will see. For Take Two and Rockstar to do nothing to get the release finalized would simply be going against all logic and all business practices.

However, I do find it funny the comments that Strauss Zelnick (chairman of the Take Two board) made in an interview with the New York Times. I don't mean it's funny that Zelnick is still trying to justify the game's existance. I mean it's funny in that his view on media is actually pretty spot on.

While games are constantly being attacked for having too low of ratings, they really don't hold a candle to the violence, sex, and gore of the common American movie. For example, like Zelnick showed, the Saw movies are incredibly brutal and gory. They show situations that would make any sensitive person vomit and shriek in terror. It goes beyond Saw. American movies that receive R ratings cover a far wider range of gore and violence than any video game that receives a M rating (which is supposedly the equivalent rating).

It also covers sex as well. Rockstar was slapped with an AO rating for GTA:SA after the whole hot coffee issue came up two years back. For what? For a very bad looking sex mini-game that not only showed no explicit details (I still feel, due to the graphical limitations of GTA:SA that this sex scene was far more tame than anything in God of War...especially GoW's threesome mini game early on in the game). Meanwhile, an R rated movie will show some stuff that can get any teenager to discover the magic of the rewind and pause buttons on their DVD player.

Yet, in the end, R rated movies are accepted as R rated. There is far less debate of making all violent or sex filled movies NC-17 (the AO equivalent rating). Why? This is actually the sticky issue, in my eyes.

It's not because a game has you simulating the event at hand. I mean you do act out the part of the character in a game, but you also have so much less photo realism that it just defeats anything granted by giving you control of the violence (or sex). In the end, photo realism, in my eyes, will always beat control of a forced situation. I will always be more creeped out by what I saw in Zodiak (one awesome movie for historical and crime enthusiasts) that what I played in GTA:SA, since GTA was not only very fake, but it looked very fake. GTA:SA involved a bunch of pixels and polygons being killed with red pixels of blood coming out...the opening murder of Zodiak showed what looked like real people (since they were real actors) being attacked and covered in a convincing analogue of real blood.

The reason for games being judged harder comes down to two things. One is that games are still, in the eyes of authoritative people (legislature, lawyers, and judges), being seen as a kid friendly activity. It cannot be grasped by non-gaming adults that there could really be an adult audience for M rated games. It makes me think of when I was a kid and I would get hassled by relatives when I'd go out for pizza and spend a few quarters on whatever arcade cabinets were in the pizzeria. I was hassled because, supposedly, when I grew up I would realize there was a "better use" for that "wasted money". Well, I'm an adult now (late 20's), and I still see more of my undesignated money (not earmarked for bills, gas, or groceries) going right into my geekish habits. Did I miss a life lesson? No. I merely saw that games are a great way to blow off some steam and to have fun after a long day of doing adult things (working a mindless job that comes right out of Office Space or The Office).

The other problem is that at one point, some damned lawyer (I don't feel all are bad...but a good deal of them do give a bad name for the hard working ones...and I won't name that one particular name that's on your lips as you read this) came up with the idea of using the above ignorance to his/her client's advantage. Someone was charged with a major crime. It could be murder, grand theft auto, or whatever...honestly, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that because of the ignorance of a judge, a group of senators/representatives, and whoever else all bought into this idea; the unknown (being games in this case) can cause bad things. So, with a knee jerk reaction of fear of the unknown (how many times has that caused problems in world history?), it was decided that games were a great alibi. Afterall, why would some all American kid (and we know that America never raises a loser or a criminal.../sarcasm) cause trouble, unless some evil unknown caused it. Thus, the fear of the unknown caused it to be the ideal alibi for any childhood crime. Toss in that few adults ever try this lame of an excuse to justify some act of senseless violence and disregard for their neighbors, and games are reinforced as a kid only pleasure...and thus they should be rated harder and more strictly.

Zelnick is right in saying that games are judged differently than movies. However, it comes down to too many cases of games being unknown to moral authorities. It's like a part of history that keeps repeating itself. Radio was evil, in the eyes of some, when it's "demonic voice" first came from a box. Some saw movies as evil. Some saw television as the beginning of the fall of society. Well, it's now games, as they are the newest kid on the street. Unfortunately, it's lasted for a lot longer than with other forms of media, and it may continue this way for a long time. I just don't see another technology coming along to surpass video games as the new kid on the entertainment block. Thus, it will take a few more decades as those who grew up on games come to be the moral authorities in the world...I started with games from my toddler years, and I'm still a few terms too young to be president (not that I would want to be a politician) just means that a few more decades will be needed to clear this hurdle.


Malik (6/28/07)  

The Wii will soon receive the same ability as the PS3 and 360. That is to say, the Wii will, starting next year, offer new small games via the shop channel. I'm glad to see Nintendo taking this type of idea seriously, since I know the majority of my fun on the 360 has been via the Arcade. For the Wii to open the same type of service will open up so much more room to capture more of the gaming market. Imagine the impact that casual gaming could have on the system that is already capturing the best audience for casual gaming.

The only problem with this lies in one simple fact; the Wii has half a gig of flash memory to save everything. While this ensures that re-downloading games is not much of a problem if you need to erase something for more room, it still ignores the fact that people don't like to re-download a game and have to deal with erasing crap in order to scavenge as much free memory as possible.

My suggestion...well, it's obvious from the past of consoles that peripherals are not a smart route for the less tech savvy of consoles. So, a new HDD or something of that nature would just not work. So, my suggestion would be for Nintendo to release a firmware update (and this is overdue) to allow one to use the SD memory card slot like a part of the internal HDD. So far, the SD slot is almost completely ignored, except as a back up device for saves and as a way to view pictures off of one's TV (using the Wii). Beyond that, this slot is completely ignored.

Why not just open the SD card slot to be a secondary storage device on par with the internal flash memory? It would not only solve the issue of 512MB being too little to save more than two virtual console N-64 games at once. It would solve the fact that this feels like a useless feature (the SD slot). Hell, it could open up enough potential to grant eight times the amount of space, with a single $50 purchase (and yes, SD cards are that cheap).

Despite the fact that Nintendo is ignoring this one bit of potential, it's nice to see that the third party development studios are doing less of the whole ignoring thing when it comes to the Wii. Capcom, Namco Bandai, and Sega are all redirecting some parts of their development resources from the 360 and PS3 to making more Wii games. This is a great idea. Not only for the developers, who will find the obviously larger install base of the Wii as a boon for sales, but also in the fact that development costs are so much lower on the Wii than the competition.

I hope this means more than the Wii just getting more filler garbage, however. I want to see more examples of the heavy hitters, like Resident Evil, Tales games, and...well...umm...does Sega make anything good anymore? Anyway, I want to see the real franchise games come to the Wii. We all know that many developers love to make the silly games for the "under-dog" system (from a tech standpoint), like Elebits and remakes of old Resident Evil games. However, seeing an approach more like Square Enix (which is making DQ9 a DS exclusive) is taking would be amazing.

In fact, I like to see that final point in that above link in regards to Square Enix. It's good to see that a company like SE, which is usually a technology fanatic, take the stand that the PS3 will not be worthy of anymore development resources, outside of already allotted ones, until the install base is worthy of real attention. While the PS3 and 360 offer high doses of technology, by suffering in sales (especially the PS3) they show that maybe gamers are fine with keeping their shit more on a simple variety. The fans keep speaking, and it's good that some developers and publishers are finally taking notice.


Malik (6/29/07)  

Finally...there is some news actually worthy of being happy about. I don't mean one little thing, I mean some good old news, with some real geek relevance, at least to the eyes of this geek.

On one hand, Blue Dragon has a release date in North America finally. August 28th will be the day. First of all, this seems a bit unusual to my eyes. In particular, this game will be debuting before the usual holiday game season (which starts around the end of September or beginning of October). Considering the hype that this game has created for many North American 360 owners (like how it'll be the first Japanese 360 RPG that comes from a big player in the RPG business...unlike Enchanted Arms), it would seem more logical to use this game as a holiday seller to boost sales of the 360 by showing that the 360 caters to fans of all genres.

Considering Microsoft is the publisher for this game, they should be willing to understand the sales that this type of game could help to generate for the 360 by being a holiday release. On top of that, by being one of the few big name RPGs for any console this year, it would only make more sense. Microsoft could've said something along the lines of how if you want a console with all of the genres represented for your special Christmas gift receiving person in your life, then the 360 has your back.

Additionally, the Guitar Hero Encore: 80's set list is final and up online. This is the last Guitar Hero game from Harmonix (before the game goes into Neversoft's hands) and will also be a nice game to break up the tedium of the summer (since it comes out in a few weeks). I, however, feel like something is lacking from the set list. While the songs are interesting and cover a nice variety of genres of rock, it just feels like the 80's had a lot more to offer than butt rock, hair rock, pseudo-metal, new wave, and generic punk.

For example, I think this game could use a bit of additional energy to the list. For example, Social Distortion got rolling in the 1980's (Prison Bound anyone?), as did Guitar Hero favorite Megadeth. Even the bands represented could have some better tracks included. I mean we have only the most overplayed of Winger (Seventeen), Dio (Holy Diver), Quiet Riot (Mental Health), Ratt (Round and Round) just goes on. Why not call this game "Guitar Hero Encore: All That Shit That Endlessly Plays on Your Local Classic Rock Station While You Wait For a Good Song to Rock Out To". Maybe that title would just be too long. "Classic Rock Station Play list" wouldn't be too long, however.

When you throw in the fact that this game only has 30 songs on this "finalized" set list, it feels like the game is a bit short on content. Even if additional indy tracks are tossed in as purchasable music, like on GH1 and GH2, then more confusion would arise. Not too many indy groups who'd record for GH Encore would exactly be authentic since the 80's ended a good two decades ago. I hope there is some trick up Harmonix's sleeves, since I just feel like this is simply making bonus candy for the fans...candy that offers a little bit of fun, but completely empty calories.

Last of all, the second trailer for GTA IV has launched. I don't know what to think...since, as I type this, I'm on a computer that can barely handle Gmail. The thought of using my work PC for watching a video is beyond the realms of reality. However, from the description in Gamespot's run down of the trailer sounds like I'll be more than happy to watch it tonight.

The new trailer covers some of the more violent sides of the game. Instead of simply setting the tone, we get to see Nikko (the name of the protagonist) handling some shooting and driving. However, thinking of GTA protagonists shooting, I can only think of one thing; I really hope Rockstar paid attention to Saint's Row and Crackdown. Those games had the same sandbox style engine as a GTA game, but handled the shooting in so much better of a way. In particular, Crackdown was an amazing game to play because the shooting gave you so much control. Not only did you have manual aiming, but you could also select different body parts or vehicle sections while in auto aim mode. Truly, this was the ideal situation and mechanic for a problem that has plagued the genre since GTA3 helped to create it...way back in a time long forgotten.

Hopefully, Rockstar will just use the big time break between GTA:SA and GTA4, as well as the change in technology of a new generation of platforms to finally make a solid game...and not just a game that's fun to play but still a pain in the ass to control.

Now, before the computer I'm typing this on decides to die for good (this post, as I typed it, has already crashed three times), I will go off into another weekend...well, a one day off break from my day job before I head back in on an unpaid Sunday. Viva the American Dream!


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