Let's start the week
with some random thoughts...
First off, I am growing
weary of YouTube.
I like the whole revolution of Google Video and YouTube and how
these two places will now let pretty much anyone who wants to post a
video to do so. These types of sites are always a good source of
unintentional comedy of epic proportions...that is, they are until
you show up on these sites. I won't link to any of these videos, but
let's just say that I've kept my real life persona well off of the
Internet, and for once it's the real me, and not just "Malik",
geeking out hardcore style (both videos...so far it's only
two...involve me playing D&D and arguing the basics of life's most
important mysteries...like "do elves have kings?")...in all the
possible embarrassing glory...never trust a man with a digital
camera...damn you Bastich! :P
Secondly, I needed a new
game to fill the void of Suikoden V. I couldn't find a game to
really fill that void, so I instead opted for my first serious
(serious means I actually have not quit in disgust after less than
one level) journey into the world of Tomb Raider with Tomb Raider
Legends. So far, I can easily see myself being done with this game
with only a few days of playing, but that only makes me happier that
I am borrowing this game instead of having purchased it.
I usually avoided Tomb
Raider since 3D games have always been a fear of mine. I don't fear
the concept, but the application of 3D technology in games have
almost always fallen short (with a few important exceptions...like
Mario and Zelda). Well, I think it's good that I kept out of the
Tomb Raider series until now. Legends does a great job of blending
enjoyable and serviceable visuals with the genre. Plus, from the
little I've played of previous Tomb Raider games, I can easily see
that Eidos/Crystal Dynamics has worked out the control issues.
It's not to say that the
controls are perfect. In fact, the controls work, but they are still
a good source of complaints. I have no problem playing the game, but
I know that I would not continually play a game with this engine for
more than a few days without feeling frustrated and annoyed. This is
especially true of the motorcycle stage near the start of the game.
Nothing like trying to control a motorcycle at high speeds and
constantly nicking walls that should be easily avoided in any other
motorcycle involved game.
At least, considering
the genre, the plot is actually pretty interesting. It is quite
cliché in many aspects, but it is cliché in all the right ways to
keep one wanting to play a little more.
Then again, all plots
have become at least a little cliché in the gaming world. Whenever I
see a review of an RPG, in particular, in which the reviewer bashes
the plot for being a lot like something we've seen before, I can't
help but laugh. If the only types of games that were allowed to be
made were ones with original plots, and sports games (which don't
rely on plots), we would live in a much different gaming world. We
would only see one or two RPGs each year (games like Disgaea and
Shin Megami Tensei), no more FPS titles, very few platformers (Psychonauts
would've been the most recent one made), and some puzzle games.
In fact, it's time for
these types of thoughts to come to a close. We have seen almost
everything, and that's why we must look for new applications of what
we already know.
For example, Suikoden V
uses the same old plot; an evil senator overthrows the royal family,
and you, as the price, must try to win back the kingdom as your
sister, the next queen, is used as a puppet leader. We have seen
this before. However, the smaller details are not the same that were
used in the past with this plot. Each of the 108 characters that
join you, not to mention the numerous people who don't join you,
each has a unique plot all their own. Well, not "unique", but unique
to the overall plot. There are gladiators fighting for their
freedom, demi-humans struggling for their unique lifestyles to
persist, archeologists trying to take advantage of the protagonist
to unveil new ruins of historical significance, and about 50 other
subplots. In the end, it's a new and refreshing story that has a
hundred elements we've seen before...just never all together in this
We cannot reclaim plots
that have been used to death, but game designers can reclaim them as
original by treating a few elements differently enough to make it
seem less tired and worn down. In fact, to any person who complains
that a game (usually an RPG) uses a cliché plot, I dare you to name
ten game plots from the past year that have been truly original.
Anyway, I'm kind of
rambling right now. I'm worn down. I spent most of yesterday turning
a pile of parts and a couple of PC cases (with a quick run to an
electronics store) into a great backup computer so Velveeta and I
can start playing some co-op Neverwinter Nights and Civilization 4.
That wasn't so bad...but the running to an electronics store was.
Nothing like trying to find a cheap DVD drive (which should be easy)
when all of the local stores are trying to push DVD burners. At my
third store, I finally found a simple DVD drive...and then when I
wanted a clerk to run a price check (of course there wasn't a price
on the thing), I had to deal with a long sales pitch about how it
wouldn't be a good drive since I NEEDED (according to the clerk) a
DVD burner. Blah.
At least I can now
finally play some LAN Civ 4 and NWN with Velveeta...so it was
probably all worth it.
Akifumi Kaneko has some
the Wild Arms series, and they make me wonder. Mainly they make
me wonder if the series can be saved after it's brutal treatment in
the last year. We've seen a remake of the first Wild Arms game, in
which the original game was re-written. While this isn't a bad
thing, the game was touched up a bit more than really needed and it
left a game that just didn't live up to what the first game really
did for the series.
There's also how
the 4th Wild Arms game handled a lot of aspects of the RPG genre,
and how Kaneko pulled a complete Final Fantasy with the game (that
would be my way of saying someone did innovation a little too hard
and killed an otherwise promising game) with the strategic grid
based combat. I also won't mention how giving everyone guns/arms in
WA3 felt strange and anti-Wild Arms.
Vanguard can restore the wonders of the earlier Wild Arms games.
With how the first games in the series brought a nice fresh flavor
to the RPG genre (especially with the wild west flavors), I would
love to see the series come back from the dead in a way that few
other game franchises have been able to. It's time for a new Wild
Arms that shows that a traditional RPG (the type that the best Wild
Arms games did so well) can still live in the current console world.
Hell...Suikoden has been doing it for about the same amount of time,
so Wild Arms could easily do the same...assuming Kaneko's idea of
handing over the game's development can work in all of our favor.
interesting read I found was
Gamespot's Q&A session with Chuck Klosterman of Esquire
magazine. The basic concept of this article is that Mr. Klosterman
has equated the modern gaming culture to the 60's rock movement (as
in it's one of the few artistic outlets with easy access to the
youth) and that game journalism is not what it could be and that's
best seen by how non-gamers don't read about games.
As for the youth
culture found in gaming...well, I have to say, despite how
Klosterman uses a few too many overly convoluted word choices (we
seems to be bent on using the most complicated words
possible...perhaps to sound smarter than he is or just to sound
impressive or something), he makes a good point. In fact, one of the
key reasons gaming might be considered so easy to demonize by the
mainstream is that it's an art form (and that it is) that has a very
unique audience that makes up the mainstream aspects of it. It's
new, different, and very hard to understand from the outsider's
perspective (just like music was becoming in the 1960's).
However, his other
point of how there's no journalistic outlet that allows non-gamers
into the geek world is not so on the ball. In fact, it's not so much
that there's no real outlet for game news to non-gamers. It's rather
that many non-gamers would rather ignore gaming for what it is.
Afterall, these non-gamers have Jack Thompson, the FCC, and dozens
of censorship fanatical groups that make headlines too readily in
the mainstream news outlets. Non-gamers just don't "need" access to
real game news from a non-game journal/publication. They simply
don't need something that could make games look attractive and
interesting when they are constantly fed that games are the source
of all juvenile crime and psychological issues.
That's exactly why
we could never hope to see serious news about games from outlets
like CNN, Fox News (both of whom bash gaming with underhanded
favoritism towards specific companies, like Sony and Microsoft), or
the other major news sources. Afterall, news outlets care about one
thing more than anything else, and that's ratings. If many
non-gamers are not interested in games, then they will not
read/watch a news story on games, and thus some space or time that
could've gotten ratings would be wasted if a game friendly article
Enough of that
philosophical blah-blah-ing. I've been playing a fair amount of Tomb
Raider Legend, and I have to say that this game has completely
changed my mind about the entire franchise. This is the first tomb
Raider game I've seen that has me constantly wanting to play more.
Right now, as I type, I'm thinking of playing and where I could've
missed some hidden bonuses. In fact, there's only one complaint I
have, so far, with this game...and that's an age-old complaint about
3D games in general; platform jumping puzzles on 3D games have
always sucked, and they're no different in this game. I spent about
10 attempts last night making the most simple of jumps and watched
as Lara Croft kept deciding that instead of jumping to an easy to
reach platform that she would rather jump down the building she was
one...and fall about 15 stories to the ground below...to her
death...over and over...
Before I go for
now, I just want to update that the Suikoden V review is in the
works and is coming along nicely. Expect it in the next couple of
First off, before
there's a chance for me dawdle anymore and be any more lazy, I have
finished the Suikoden V review. Enjoy.
On to other
notes...so, last week I spent some time sorta pondering the future
for Nintendo and Sony. Both sides of this soon-to-be-next-gen fight
had some things being said about them that were either way out of
line, or the company had it's head up it's ass. I thought that maybe
things could at least make some sense on the final side of this
trilogy of console makers (with Microsoft being the obvious final
side). After all, they had already released the 360 and had nothing
else to offer besides content...right?
According to the
Rumor Control section of Gamespot, this assumption would be
wrong. Basically, someone out there at
XBox Scene had seen some images of multiple 360 motherboards
with HDMI outputs.
When the next
generation of DVD technology starts to become mainstream, Microsoft
is planning to include an add-on HD-DVD drive as an accessory for
the 360. They are also counting on making a Blu-ray add-on if the
HD-DVD technology fails (at least that's what Microsoft has said in
the past). The one important factor in this type of technology is
that Blu-ray movies will look like shit without DVI or HDMI outputs
if the movie is made with HDCP compliance technology imbedded on the
disk (for the unknowing, HDCP movies played without a HDMI or DVI
cable to hook up the player will actually run at half of their
actual definition to "prevent copying of movies").
So, with Microsoft
having a probably new release of 360s in the future, that will
include the HDMI outputs, I have one simple thought...this will
basically, in a sense, be Microsoft flipping off all early adopters
of the 360. Those of us who have a 360 now, sans HDMI, will be left
with no real means to play HDCP compliant films on the 360. Or at
least we'll have no way to play them at their proper resolution.
While I am not one
to worry about my game system having more features than the ability
to play games, there is still a metaphorical slap in the face from
Microsoft on this score if it comes to fruition. Basically, all late
adopters will be rewarded with more potential functionality, while
the early adopters will literally be left with only two rather weak
An early adopter
can go ahead and try to pawn off their first edition 360 on some
sucker. Then you simply have to buy a new 360. Basically, it's the
Nintendo portable strategy. You just have to keep buying a system
multiple times. I guess that's not too bad...if you are of the
school that think that Microsoft is out to rip you off (it would be
confirmation, in a sense, of your opinions) or if you think the PS3
is going to be sold for a reasonable asking price (making you rather
The other option
is what I'll probably do in this case. I'll sit down, bitch about
it, and keep a small level of animosity in my heart for Microsoft.
I'll also probably try to avoid any future Microsoft game systems
for the first year or so as they figure out the difference between
what they will include in the system at launch and what they will
include with the system at the end of it's life cycle.
At least there is
some good news (that's more than just rumors) from Microsoft.
Each Wednesday for the next few months, Microsoft aims to have new
Live Arcade releases. Considering no new Arcade games have come
along for a good long season, it's about freakin' time. Microsoft
has really become lax in getting done what they were supposedly
claiming they would get done when the 360 launched...that is, they
are finally looking to add a constant flow of new content.
For those who have
been drooling over the thought of it since it was mentioned at CES
(maybe it was the GDC...one of those shows early in the calendar
year), Street Fighter II is finally getting a street date. It will
be $10 on August 2nd. I still don't see the big deal about getting
SFII for that large of a price on the 360 when I can get it cheaper
for just about any system I own with a quick stop at eBay...but it's
coming at long last.
Also, to wrap
things up for today,
a little closure. Sony has pulled their PSP ads from the
Netherlands. You know which ads...the ones being boycotted by the
NAACP, to name one group. While I don't think a racist message was
Sony's intention, you do have to admit that their advertising
partners seem to be very out of touch with reality, and some common
sense boundaries really should not be crossed...even if in
There's been a bit of
rumors floating around about the upcoming Microsoft portable
device. The rumors have gone in every direction; from what types of
entertainment we'll get from this thing to what the name will be
(Argo and Zune being the most widely used ones). However, while
rumors fly around, it's amazing to see some common sense not
Zune is supposed
to hit the market in the next half year. Supposedly, Microsoft will
try to unveil it in time for the holiday season, which makes perfect
sense. However, the part that doesn't make sense is the rumors some
people shared of the thing being a portable game device.
There is only one
gaming machine that has hit the market within a half year of being
announced, even in rumors. There is one game system that had so
little attention prior to it's release...just one. That would be the
Sega Saturn (which literally launched with no one even knowing it
came out). If you remember, the Saturn was an a huge success, and a
great part of it's crash-n-burn approach was that there wasn't
enough information flying around on all ends of the gossip spectrum.
So, while a
portable music (and maybe video) device could do quite well with
little fanfare, a portable gaming machine will have too many
problems. Most important of these issues is that no game developers
will have time to properly develop any games for the damned Zune to
be ready for the launch. It's hard enough, with over a year of
notice, for a good launch lineup to be established. You give that
time frame a major downsize and the launch lineup would simply not
exist. There wouldn't just be a lack of good games...there would be
a lack of bad ones too.
Common sense, if
we listen to it, would tell us a few important things...the Zune
will be primarily a multimedia device, it will be a case of "too
little, too late" versus the iPod, and it will have games...but they
won't matter, as the iPod has games too. I don't know a single
person, however, who consistently uses their iPod's games for
entertainment. I tried it once and got bored, so I use mine for it's
true purpose (that would be music).
On a side note...Zune?
iPod has the type of name that let's you know that it's both a Apple
product (with that little "i" in the name) and the name is catchy
since we all have heard the word "pod" before. Zune, on the other
hand, just sounds like a game I'd play on the 360 Arcade (like Zuma).
If Microsoft is really wanting to take on Apple in this fight, they
are going to need some major PR (and quick), along with a name
change to something that has the potential to be a household term.
Zune just won't fill that needed role.
I'd love to post
some more, but my life has become insanely busy lately (with 2 job
interviews this week, and at least one more scheduled on the
horizon, and a good chance of even more coming along...). Nothing
like having to be a damned adult from time to time...sigh...
Is it any real surprise
that UMD movies are finally being
pulled from Target? I don't think so. Hell, I was probably the
first (of a long line of people) to say that UMD movies were a bad
idea. After all, we're talking about a lower resolution and lower
overall quality (including less bonus features) movie being placed
on a proprietary media that could only be read by one single device.
We're also talking about something that is literally a pain to watch
for the full duration of a movie, and something that was only given
the absolute lowest quality movies (as in these were crap-tacular
films...Hitch...Stealth...Gone in 60 Seconds...).
Also, with the PSP
using Memory Stick Duo, it was not all that hard to use a PC to
convert a DVD into a MPG-4 video, copy it to the Memory Stick and
then watch it on the PSP. So why would someone need to bad a
slightly more expensive version of a limited use movie on UMD when
they could put absolutely any movie they wanted onto the Memory
Stick Duo? There's absolutely no reason.
It comes as no
surprise that Sony is ready to fight back in the wake of destruction
done to their PR after the UMD fell. Namely, they are now planning
to release a few select movies on Memory Duo sticks of 1 and 2
GB...for about the same price as the MSRP for these media sticks
when blank. Of course, the movies will probably be hella lame (Hitch
returns, along with The Grudge, S.W.A.T., and even XXX 2). Best of
all (and this is from the perspective of someone loving the PSP for
the unintentional humor that Sony is supplying us all with), the
movies will be formatted to lower resolutions than the limited
ability PSP is even capable of. Maybe that's a copy protection
method to prevent people from sharing these movies (who would want a
version of Hitch that looks like ass?...ok, who would want Hitch to
Sony did this for
obvious reasons; they told consumers to expect movies on their PSPs
when they first announced the system, and they cannot afford to go
back on their word now. So, this is a simple way to show that Sony
cares...sort of...about keeping their word. In reality, this is
another desperate move by Sony to try to justify the gameless
wonder. Also, for the record, I still haven't seen anything on the
PSP that would make it really worth the price of admission.
To round out the
Sony side of stupidity...they're
being sued...again. This time it's Agere that's suing them, and
it's about 8 different patent infringements. This is not a surprise.
After all, Sony stopped using the rumble feature in their
controllers (starting with the PS3) because of a past case they
lost against Immersion Corp. Sony is currently like the Nintendo
of the late 1980's and early 1990's. In other words, they are a
perfect target for lawsuits, since they have ran their business with
a little too much of the "I don't give a f#@%" attitude that a giant
mega corporation will often feel is their right to display.
In reality, I can
see a future event coming through...Sony will lose on at least 6 of
the 8 patent infringements, and the last two will either be in some
sort of limbo/deadlock, or they will also go in Agere's favor. Sony
has done it before, and they will keep infringing on patents and
making inane mistakes until the day they drive themselves into the
ground...then they will start playing nice. It's just like how
Nintendo did after they shot themselves in the foot one too many
Well, the weekend
is finally upon us. It's been a bit too chaotic for me this week. At
least with a couple days of freedom, I will try to finish playing
through Tomb Raider Legends and maybe find something else to play
(probably I'll pick up where I left off on Xenogears about a month
ago). So, good weekends to all, and I'm out of here.
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