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Malik (7/05/06)  

The Prey demo is on the Live Marketplace...for what it's worth. To me, that's not worth as much as the time it would take to find and download the demo. I honestly feel like most of my consoles are going to sit for the next few months. It's summer...and it'll be a slow one. Between a lack of most genres, and an abundance of the overplayed genres (FPS, pointless action, hack-n-slash), I really don't care for what's coming this way for the next three months.

Also, on another "for what it's worth" type of note, an analyst (DFC Intelligence) sees that Sony could come up last in the next gen console wars. I honestly don't think this will be the outcome, but supposedly, one scenario has Sony coming in last due primarily to the $600 price tag of the PS3.

While I usually take what analysts say with a big ass grain of salt, I can see a little of what DFC is saying to have some important relevance. For example, the whole deal about how the $600 tag boosts the PS3 into a different audience type. This is both right and wrong. It is right that a good number of people would normally be cut off from affording such a console, but at the same time...well, let's say two words; "credit" and "card". I can easily see a lot of people placing the Ps3 on their credit cards. We live in a plastic society with ever growing spending limits. $300 higher in price means almost nothing when it could be paid on the installment plan.

However, the part that is correct will apply to the younger geeks. These are the ones that mommy and daddy will go ape shit over buying the love of. In the case of a console, it's easy to give one for a Christmas (or whatever festive holiday they support) gift. However, when a parent sees a 360 for $300/$400, a PS3 for $500/$600, and maybe a Wii for (my guess) $250, it will not be that hard of a decision to give one of the cheaper consoles. These are the audience members who will be cut off from the PS3.

Lastly, launch sales will not be effected at all by the price, like DFC hints. After all, the hype machine will easily sway a good amount of people to spend well beyond their means one something that has been hyped as the uber-console to end all consoles. However, once the PS3 is a little more common place, I think many geeks will see a horrible truth (don't hate...I only preach the truth here); the PS3 is not double the quality of the 360. In fact, in the end, it will be pretty difficult to tell the difference in quality of the two systems. I think we'll see that the 360 may do one thing a little better, and the PS3 will do something else a little better. However, in the end, the two systems will be pretty equal, and will even share many of the same (supposedly exclusive) titles.

Anyway, I joined some friends for a bit of the LAN action this weekend. We played a good amount of THQ's new hack-n-slash Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance clone. Titan Quest is not worth the $50 asking price. Hell, I'd say it's not even worth $30. In a LAN setting, it is worth a little more, just because of what a 5-6 person LAN can mean to such a game. However, that's one of the factors that lowers TQ's's only able to support 6 players at a time. This alone limits it's worth in ways that many modern hack-n-slash clones (of either BG:DA or Diablo) have gotten around.

The game does offer some interesting character creation mechanisms. In fact, this is probably the best part of the game. When you reach level two, you chose your first power set, of eight to chose. They range from themes along the lines of spirit (necromancy), rogue (what it sounds like...quick and powerful hits), earth (fire and earth magic for AoE damage), storm (offensive smaller target spells), etc. Then as you progress your powers, spending three skill points per level to upgrade your abilities or your overall class (to gain access to new powers), you finally get to chose a second power set at level either. So, you can start as a mage, and go on to be a fighter mage, a true mage, or whatever...or do the same with being a fighter.

However, despite the character build parts being a little interesting, the game is a resource hog (it will anger your computer from time to time). It's pretty, but it will devour you PC's memory like candy. Also, it doesn't offer much more than the typical Diablo action ("click, click, click, click," went the mouse)...but in an ancient Greek setting. That's about it. You'll keep facing the same sorts of enemies, over and over again, while picking up random armors and weapons, and using the same standard spells/skills assigned to the number keys, while chugging potions for energy and health. That is the game. It's pretty fun with LAN fueled madness, but I could not really recommend this game, especially at $50, for anything other than a very expensive LAN based one night stand.

Worst of all, TQ offers the same old Diablo style small inventory system, without the ability to rotate items in your backpack. So, while you may get bored with the game, you'll never get as bored with the overall game as you will get annoyed at hearing "you can't pick that up. Your inventory is full". Even if you have enough room for another large item, you may never be able to hold it since you can't rotate it sideways into your bag. Now that's what I call a great game!


Malik (7/06/06)  

Another day, another bit of unfounded rumors. Yesterday, the PS3 was analyzed into being a piece of crap, and today...

First we get our first release date for a Wii game. Sports Illustrated for Kids says that Wii Sports will be coming out on November 6th. Considering that no one else has heard anything about any Wii game release date, I know a sports magazine would definitely have the best information (/sarcasm). Right? Wrong.

Until several things happen, release dates are purely speculative for both Wii and PS3 games and hardware. That magical thing that must happen is that Nintendo and Sony must give out the info. How can we get no info from Nintendo about Wii Sports' release date, but SIfK could have the info? Simply put, they don't know anything. That would be my guess, at least. I might add that that would be an educated guess, rather than jumping on the "OMG!!111!!! Teh come-zor outzor in November!!111!!" bandwagon. Until we know something from a respectable source, we don't know shit.

So, on that same note, CNN/Money now has some info about the Wii's release date. According to CNN/Money, the Wii could potentially come out as early as September. That is an interesting idea. The whole idea for this comes from looking at other people and assuming (which makes an ass out of you...and...something or other...) some things that shouldn't be assumed.

The major assumption is that the Wii has entered into manufacturing. Well, that's not assumption....that's fact. The assumption says that since the 360 was released only 69 days after it was sent to be manufactured that Nintendo could, and might, do the same thing. This would give a late September launch window. That is also assuming that Nintendo is not worried about having a sufficient supply of Wii consoles (what is the pleural of "Wii"?) at launch. For all we know, Nintendo could see the potential boost in sales they would receive from being launched next to a $600 (PS3) console, and they simply want a larger supply of machines to sell. This would also help them to look less out of touch with reality by showing that they learned from Microsoft and Sony, who made mistakes in the past of not having enough consoles at launch.

Also, this idea of a potential September launch seems a bit funny for another reason. Twilight Princess is supposed to launch simultaneously for both the Wii and the GCN and it's supposed to be a launch title for the Wii. Considering the GCN game still has a supposed late 2006/November-ish release date, and until that changes I don't see the Wii release date changing. Nintendo will not go back on their word and make the game into a "launch window" game as opposed to a launch game.

Most of all, however, is the fact that the last word in the pre-order line of talks, is that Wii pre-orders will open around September, when Nintendo will give a probably final quantity for launch to the major retailers. So, in a nutshell, they wouldn't give the final quantity for launch on the same month in which they launch. That just wouldn't be good for building potential sales.

The simple reality of all of this speculation is simple; the Wii will (and I'd bet money on this...but I don't recommend doing so...or something...) launch in November, so that it will receive strong holiday sales, to both have a good launch and to impress shareholders.

The other simple truth in these matters is that news organizations/sites/whatever are usually full of bullshit when it comes to video games. It's not that they do so on purpose, but rather because our geekish ways are so unusual and foreign to them. They simply cannot understand these "toys", and they will jump on any random thought (like how the 360 was launched 69 days after first being manufactured) to try to sound like they are one step ahead of everyone else. It's just like how it is with analysts. They look at market trends and try to formulate a story off of some coincidental data.

If you're the type of geek to give in to these random "news stories", I have one piece of advice; unless it comes from the source, it is most likely a steaming pile of shit...and if it did come from the source, it still could be a steaming pile of shit (like Sony's PS3 launch dates, the PSP's anything, Infinium's Phantom launch windows, Microsoft's Street Fighter 2 release windows, and so on). That's why actions speak a lot louder than words in the geek world.


Malik (7/07/06)  

Before I get into the heat of! Just wow! I love how Sony seems to have forgotten that their PR/advertising departments really need to work with a common goal in mind. That common goal would be selling the PSP without being incredibly racist. On one hand, you have this new ad that seems to scream white on black hatred, and on the other hand you have the sketch style animated ads shown in the US (the ones with different vermin being portrayed in very race-stereotyping the carpet loving Mexican dust balls, the nut obsessed African American squirrels, and so on). Maybe it's time for Sony to stop letting a five year old develop their ads and to instead try to not just be as offensive as humanly possible. I, for one, know that a racist ad (no matter what vermin/pest/problem they try to use to play the role) is a lot less likely to influence me to buy something than it is to make me ignore a product.

Also, like I was saying yesterday; there's no reason to pay attention to game rumors and speculation until something official is said. In today's case, there's the exclusiveness of Assassin's Creed. I am willing to bet, since the PS3 will be so expensive, and it will lower some of the interest in the console, that AC will end up being on the 360. However, I also imagine we will see about ten more rounds of this "is it PS3 exclusive?" bullshit before we get some final release information.

Last night I finally finished my trek through Suikoden V. I do plan to write a review of this game as soon as I can (which probably means around the end of next week will be when it's posted), but I have some closing thoughts on this game.

First off, developers of RPGs should take a note or two from this game. Namely, DO NOT imitate the final dungeon on any RPG...ever again. Just read the following, if you want to really understand. Don't worry, there are no really important spoilers (beyond how many boss battles make up the last dungeon).

Once you enter the final dungeon, you are given the last save point of the game. Between this final save spot and the credits, you are forced to go through a few too many overly convoluted tasks. First your party of six fighters and four reserves is thrown out and you have to form three parties of six with one reserve each. These parties each have one to two required characters, and since the game almost rewards you to stick with the same six fighters the entire game, you will not enjoy now having to use 12 previously unneeded characters in these new half-assed parties.

To make it worse, the enemies in this dungeon are nothing short of brutal. They will decimate the new blood like it was nothing. That is, they will unless you have the patience to level the area, pick your 18 final character choices, and then level each one up in a few hours of pointless grinding...and don't forget, you will new to also grind for gold so you can upgrade and equip each character into being a useful fighter.

Now that you may be ready for the dungeon, you can save. After the last save, you will face three mini-mazes that form one giant complex hassle of a maze. After you spend between and hour and a half to three hours getting lost, you will then face one boss, with each party. That is, you will face one powerful boss with each of your new half-assed parties. Remember, there's no save anywhere around here. So, only fight if you're completely ready for this.

Now that you're feeling tired of the game, it lets you form on good normal party (six in front and four behind)...but only out of the people who were in your three lame groups. So, if you wanted four people in your final team's reserves who could only fit in the reserve slot (some people can help in battle, but cannot join the front battle lines...thus they are always in the reserves), you are out of luck, since the lame parties only had one reserve slot each.

Ok. Now that that hassle is done, you can never go backwards (like to exit the dungeon and save). You are now locked in to finish the game. The last bit of good news you get in this game also hits now...your final party will be fully restored to full HP and MP...which means you first get to face some bosses.

In Suikoden V (much like other Suikodens) you face occasional one-on-one duels that go off of the classic paper-rock-scissors style of game play. If the enemy will defend, you should attack. If they attack, you should use a special. If they use a special, you should defend. The game will tip you off about what the enemy will do based on what he says prior to each action and what emotions he is showing (if he sounds angry, expect a special attack, and tired will usually mean he will defend). Well, the duel before the final boss is about facing a boss who shows no emotions and offers no hints as to his next action. It is, literally, like playing paper-rock-scissor against a normal person who doesn't obsess over any given implement (for example, "Nothing beats rock!")...but if you lose, you have to repeat the last three or so hours of playing. Good luck.

Assuming you didn't lose, you now get treated to a large dialogue heavy scene with the person you dueled, and then with the final bad guy. This will go on for about 30 minutes. You have no been playing for between two to five hours without saving...probably on the longer side if this is your first time going through the final dungeon. Now you will get to face the final boss.

The last boss of the game is either really quick to take down or really slow to die (do you know every exploit? No...this is your first time playing through the game? Well, this will take a while). Best of all, it will continually hit your whole party with enough damage to kill all of your best heavy hitters in two rounds, unless you heal everyone with a dedicated healer each round. This means, considering how many magic points you tend to have in your mages near the end of the game, that you may have about 16 rounds, if you're lucky, before it's game over. So, you may, instead of having a long and tedious fight, just have a 16 round bloodbath on your hands before the game performs a mercy killing on your sorry ass.

If you do win against the boss, you will now be given a 30+ minute ending. So, odds are, by the time you are done with the game, you will have played longer between save spots than it takes to finish Metal Gear Solid on your first ever play through...and that is why I hope no developer ever imitates this hell on any quality RPG again.

However, while it may sound like I hated the game for this final dungeon, I actually enjoyed nearly everything about Suikoden V. After the first 8 or so hours of the game (which are boring and nearly impossible to enjoy), I can say that this is one of the best RPGs I've played. It's not that I don't like the game, but rather the game will put you into an abusive relationship...and you'll keep coming back for more punishment.


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