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Malik (7/16/07)

SI feel like my brain is completely fried. It's probably a nice combination between having chips and dip for dinner last night, doing a ton of back breaking labor yesterday, and being back to the work week (read: waking up at the crack of dawn). Anyway...

Just when Sony seemed to be making sense by dropping the price on the PS3 (60GB model) to $499, in what appeared to be an effort to try to reclaim some lost customers and a lot of loyalty, it turns out to be a whole different story. Sony is not lowering the price on the 60GB model as much as their are offering a clearance price in order to clear out inventory space for the new 80GB model.

Basically, in logical terms, what this means is simple; Sony is not trying to win back loyal customers from their cheaper console years (when they kicked ass in the market), but are merely trying to force a constant $600 price tag for the PS3. The only difference from the way it appeared to be going down last week is that the PS3 is going to be cheaper only because Sony appears to be getting rid of what they now deem an inferior model.

I know I'd be pretty damned pissed off with this if I was one of the suckers who bought a PS3 when it launched...or even in the last week. Basically, anyone who purchased a PS3 already has, what Sony now deems, an inferior and obsolete product. Wow. Way to impress the loyal customers! Nothing like saying, only 2/3 of a year after the system launched, that all people who bought it have what is no longer supported or wanted in Sony's eyes.

Microsoft was smart with their moves so far on the 360. The system came out with two models, but neither was called obsolete in the first year. Neither is considered worthless in Microsoft's eyes, even now (1.7 years later). A new version may have come along as the Elite, but it's not being used as a means to clear out all inventory of some "inferior" model, but rather as a reward for people who are obsessed with perfection in their consoles.

If Sony had done things a bit different and followed Microsoft's example, things would look different. True, there would be three different models of the PS3 (just like with Microsoft); the 20, 60, and (soon) 80 GB models. Also, by all logic, the 20GB model would have probably faced a price drop and gone down to $400, putting it in direct competition with Microsoft's 20GB included 360. The playing field would have been equalized. Instead, the 20GB is long dead, the 60GB, which is still too expensive to consider in direct competition with the 360, is being euthanized as I type this, and the 80GB is going to take the place of being the sole PS3...and too expensive to considered for the casual gamer.

Sony needs some help right now. Third party developers are jumping ship to make either 360 or Wii exclusive titles, or to turn all PS3 titles into cross platform titles. Why? Many are doing this because the odds of making a true hit (selling millions of copies) is rather hard with limited numbers of PS3 owners in any given region. However, while Sony could now be offering a $400 PS3 (if the 20GB lived to the last week) which would compete and bring in some less obsessed of console enthusiasts, they are instead continuing to alienate potential customers with a heavy price tag. Adding in how they are disenfranchising loyal customers by calling their systems no longer desirable products (why discontinue something unless it's no longer considered worthy to be sold? Besides being a collector's item...). This all is making a further mess of the console landscape.

While there was once an amazing landscape that showed a great mountain of Sony surrounding the rolling hills of Microsoft and the small mountains of Nintendo, there is now a big crater from Mt. Sony erupting on all their loyal fans.

I previously stated that I would not get a PS3 until Sony made it worth my money. This required three steps. There had to be some damned good games, and a good steady flow of them (in other words, no N-64 situation). The price had to be worth it ($400 max). Then they needed to fix the scaling issue of 720p games (I have a 480i/480p/1080i TV and don't want my HD games shown in downscaled 480p). What has Sony done to win me over? Not one damned thing, and they will continue to make a mess of things as long as they refuse to listen to the console purchasing audience.


Malik (7/17/07)

Well, despite E3 being last week, it's officially summer for gaming. In other words, after the short and pathetic change of pace of E3 giving a few newsworthy stories, the news is due for drying up. It's no surprise since summer is one of the most neglected seasons by game developers and publishers. E3 might had added a bit of life to the summer season, but the summer is mainly just that dead point in the year when I try to pick up any games I missed from the last year.

This year, I'm not doing that too much since I got most of what I wanted through the regular paces of the previous year. I got all the Wii titles I wanted, I picked up Shivering Isles (despite not touching the new content yet), I got Guitar Hero 2 (twice...PS2 and 360), and I...well...last year really wasn't that much of a shining time for me and my geek way of thinking.

I'm hoping for things to turn around soon, but I think the only real glimpse of new games that will perk my interests in the next few months are quite limited. Picross DS should be a sanity saver for me, since Mario's Picross was (and still is) one of my favorite games ever to grace any of my systems. Then there's Metroid Prime 3...assuming a few things.

I don't know if I'll give Metroid Prime 3 much attention. While MP1 was a fun diversion, MP2 felt a bit forced. "A bit"? It was very forced. You cannot get the good things in the game unless you scan every damned item in the game to make a log entry. You had to run through a random as hell experience at the end of the game to retrace all of your steps in both MP1 and 2. You just had to do a lot of things that served no purpose.

My largest issue with the MP franchise has been the weapons. I don't see MP3 being any different. Having ammo for your non-standard weapons in MP2 was a chore since you could only obtain one type of ammo by using the opposite weapon to kill enemies. This meant that on the fly combat became more of a chore since you could rarely have full ammo on all weapons at once (unless you found a refill station). Then there was how the weapons have lost the charm of how they worked in the original 2D Metroid games.

The ice gun in MP1 should not have been some slow as hell projectile that could only really target an enemy coming either right at you or staying 100% still. The light and dark guns of MP2 were simply two weapons from MP1, but with ammo and a new color scheme. In fact, almost all of the power ups of Metroid were limited or removed from the MP games.

Most of all, if I see another example of MP2 and the dark world, I will not even approach MP3. The idea of constantly running through a world that will damage you with each passing second is annoying enough. However, when you can prevent it only by charging special area protecting crystals that keep requiring to be reactivated...well...a game should not feel like a chore. This whole "dark world = pain" bull shit is what I'd define as a chore.

I still hold out hope that the good old Metroid of years past will return. Of course, to do so would require the removing of the first person experience. It would also probably require making the game entirely 2D. This seems to barbaric to modern game developers and publishers. However, it's the truth. 2D is only dead because the industry let it die...not because the gamers turned their collective back. Look at Castlevania for a good example. The portable Castlevania games are almost always fun (C:DS was horrible...but only because of the forced touch screen engine), despite "only being" 2D. Meanwhile, the console Castlevania games have gone 3D ever since Symphony of the Night (which was rated by many geeks as one of the best games ever, despite being 2D in an era od 3D) and have only gotten worse with each new game.

Anyway, Metroid needs a little 2D love about now. I imagine that a new Metroid game in 2D would do excellently. Plus, we know the Wii can do 2D since Paper Mario primarily took the 2D path, and it was a solid game (just boring as shit between levels). The only special thing to note is that Retro needs to not be involved. Metroid Fusion (2D and made by Retro) was a nice game, but only until you remember what Super Metroid offered (which was Metroid at it's best).

Ok...In my random way of speaking, I guess I'm just trying to say that the summer is dead. A few of us will find solace at the end of this month in Picross DS. However, beyond that, I honestly don't see anything getting me excited until GTA 4...which isn't until after the summer has ended.

While it's nice that a lack of games allows me more time to wage a war on mother nature (moles, aphids, cabbage moths, and wasps...nature's special legion of soldiers in it's war to piss me off)...I just need something to enjoy after my hands have been soaking in the blood of my fallen enemies.

Before I go, there's something cool that Rockstar is doing for the talk radio station on GTA4.  You can call a number (long distance for many people) and voice your complaints about America, or whatever else.  They may use it on the talk radio station in GTA4.  Not too bad of an idea.  The link is found here (gracias Skot for the link).


Malik (7/18/07)

To go in a different direction today, I want to take a second (or a few minutes) to look back at something. One of the best RPG franchises I ever play (and one of the worst) was Lufia. The first two games, both on the SNES, were among some of the best defined and developed RPGs from the golden age of the genre; the SNES/Genesis age. This was a time that brought out the best of Final Fantasy games, Phantasy Star (before Sega skull f#@$ed the corpse of a glorious franchise with online and card battles), Chrono Trigger, Inindo, and some really great Dragon Quest games that would never see the light of the American shores.

Lufia had two very solid games. The first played out a lot like a standard JRPG, like FF and DQ games. It had solid battles with a solid set of spells and abilities. At the same time, it gave a grand game engine and an epic setting with a world that left the player wanting more. This was especially true with it's (for the time) novel idea of starting the quest 100 years in the past, as you played out what would eventually be the end of the second game (the prequel). The world looked unique, the ideas behind many of your quests were very solid and fun, and the game brought more character development than many others for it's time.

Lufia 2 brought about a great continuation (or is that a start) to the Lufia world. You played the ancestor of the original Lufia's hero. You were 100 years in the past, and you got to see the setup for the mighty conflict that consumed the world of Lufia. To round out things even further, the game through in some fun extra game mechanics. You had capsule monsters to train and welcome into your party (which was not yet known as a Pokemon staple). You also had a great blending of Zelda style puzzles in a standard JRPG by the addition of on screen (not random battle) enemies and tools that could effect the environment and the foes around you. You didn't simply wander through a dungeon, but instead had to think your way through some epic challenges before facing off in epic battles.

Lufia 2 even gave one of the best replay values out there for an RPG by offering a special new game + mode. Instead of picking up at the same level and with the same equipment as when you beat the game (which Chrono Trigger did), you started fresh. However, you received more money and experience than usual, to keep the need for grinding for gold and experience to a low limit. You could pick up a new game of Lufia 2 and not worry about it being too easy or too consuming of time. It was a game to come back to and enjoy each and every time.

When the game continued into Lufia for the GB, things turned sour. The game changed to include massive parties of 9 characters at a time in combat, and the game just felt under developed. It didn't help that the game also, in North America, suffered from script issues that made the story almost 100% ignorable. The game just suffered, and going from a powerful system (for it's time) like the SNES to an ancient machine (which the GB was starting to be by this time) did not help such an epic franchise.

The game continued once more into the GBA. Despite how the GBA could faithfully translate a good amount of SNES RPGs (look at Breath of Fire, and Final Fantasy 1-6 for examples), many of the cult RPGs got destroyed by rushed development and a lack of appreciation (from the developers) for what came before when they went portable. This was not just the case with Lufia, as Lunar had the same problems when it was turned portable, despite how solid of an experience it was on two different outings.

In particular, Lufia 4 (Ruins of Lore) was a slow game. I don't mean it took a long time for the plot to develop. There was no real plot. I mean the game took forever to get anywhere from a cross between an unusually brutal difficulty and a very slow engine for battles. In the end, Lufia 4 was almost impossible to play, and it was definitely impossible to get any enjoyment from the game.

I bring all of this up for a few reasons. One, there is nothing important to discuss since the slow and lazy days of summer are upon us. Secondly, I felt a little nostalgic since I am trying to find a game to play to help me feel like I have an option from Oblivion (which I'm getting jaded on, again). Third, I can't help but think that it's a shame that Lufia, and Lunar for that matter, both had to fade into the mists of time.

Imagine how great it would be if some of the old cult classic JRPGs could be returned to us gamers today, and granted some new adventures. Lufia 2 started with hints of some more powerful of enemies threatening the world, yet the portable Lufia games were so bad that you cannot even consider them cannon for the series. Lunar, as well, had a great world being developed and some left over questions of what the blue star was all about and why there was any life and some ruins on such a frozen and cold world.

These are both franchises that deserve the respect and attention to bring them back to the mainstream. They were awesome games, for their time and even now, and they would be perfect for the modern gaming world. A gaming world that has seen so many classic franchises particular by Sega with their hatred of making good new Shining Force and Phantasy Star games that go so strongly against the classics. Of course, Square Enix is not innocent of the crime of ruining the Mana series, making FF into an emo series that deals more with androgynous characters and skimpy clothing that could make even the straightest male gamer wonder why they are attracted to what is supposedly a male character. The classics have been laid to rest or to waste. It would seem like in a day when strong consoles technologically and strong consoles in the entertainment side of things don't have to be equal, it would be an ideal time for the classics to be brought back to us gamers.

At least that's my thought.


Malik (7/19/07)

It seems obvious, but Rockstar has a good idea about something other than a GTA game...finally. Rockstar has been showing some silly moves, along with Take Two, as of late. There was the whole issue of Manhunt 2 getting banned and pseudo-banned over it's AO rating. This was not a big surprise that a game built around pure violence and new methods to kill a person with a wide assortment of implements would be AO rated in the US (which is effectively a banning of the game) and would be full on banned in some areas, like the UK and an inevitable Australian and German banning.

So, what has Rockstar done that has some intelligence? They are bringing Rockstar Games Present Table Tennis to the Wii. Considering how the game was a surprise hit on the 360 (mainly due to an early summer release and the usual summer game drought that was in full effect in 2006), it only makes sense to push this easy to afford game to some other consoles. When you couple in the Wii motion sensing and how a table tennis game was pretty fun on Wii Play, it is about the most obvious choice for a game release. If all goes well for this game in terms of having the same quality as the original, this could easily be the next big party game for the Wii.

I spent much of yesterday helping my parents set up a TV, and then doing the same for myself. In particular, setting up digital TV reception on a 42" plasma. Despite liking to keep myself on the higher end of technology, I had yet to experience D-TV for myself. I had stuck to TVs that were HD-Ready and had only analogue antennae/cable RF jacks. So, D-TV was, and in many ways still is a foreign territory. I don't know much about the channel listings (with the whole number hyphen number system), where to find my cable channels that are not where I'd expect them to be, or what I'm really doing. I also have a cable box on my new TV (like I had on any HD set, which is why D-TV had eluded me for so long), so I cannot do too much for now until I get an RF splitter to put my cable lead into both analogue and D-TV.

I can say, however, that I really am enjoying my new TV set. There is nothing like the fun of getting a nice big TV in one's bedroom, as long as it's not overly big. In my case, I went from a 26" that was almost impossible to see while laying in bed, to the monster that makes lying in bed feel like the ultimate movie experience. Afterall, nothing boosts one potential for laziness like a giant TV of the perfect size to watch while in the most comfortable of positions. Add in a VGA input and my Media Center laptop (complete with remote) and I can just watch anything from my bed. Be it TV, D-TV, DVD, or anime fan-subs on the laptop.

Now I just need to get that RF signal split and a monkey butler. Once I've got both of those, I'll be perfectly set to achieve maximum laziness. Maybe a mini-fridge at the side of the bed, full of some micro brews...yeah. Then I can spend my upcoming nearly three week vacation in August without having to move my lazy ass one damned inch. That's a nice thought at least, until reality sets in and forces me to spend much of my vacation doing work around the house.


Malik (7/20/07)

Yesterday I mentioned my thoughts on Rockstar bringing Table Tennis to the Wii. It is a great idea since the Wii has the perfect controller setup to take advantage of a game like Table Tennis. In other words, the motion sensing of the Wiimote makes for a fun game of swinging paddles or any other sports related tool. It's a no-brainer to bring out some titles to the Wii when the Wii can do so much more, and also capture so many more potential buyers.

However, Rockstar needs to remember that this rule is not always in effect. They are now bringing Bully to the 360 and Wii. It's a nice idea, except for a few minor parts of it. For one, this game doesn't have a use for motion sensing on the same level as a game of table tennis. Secondly, Bully has already seen the light of day in many homes thanks to being on the best selling system of the last generation (and still a good seller in the birth of the current generation)...the PS2. The audience has been reached, and to push this game any further is just an example of Rockstar and Take Two not fully understanding one simply fact...

Porting games is fine when the game originally come to a neglected system. For example, the GTA PSP titles had a problem of being on a control setup that doesn't favor GTA and it was on a system that Sony completely f#@$ed over. This meant that the potential for sales could never be reached until the games came to something more appropriate; like the PS2.

This comes back to one EA employee mentioned at E3 (look for the post last week for a's in the archives, above, somewhere...). Games are becoming stale and are simply being stripped of creativity in order to make an easy sell. This is causing a deterioration of the game industry in a slow and rotting type of way. So, instead of focusing any employees to making a Wii or 360 conversion or port of a game, why not go ahead with working on new properties? That would be a good use of the money being spent on these types of ports.

We, as gamers, need new games. A port does have it's benefits from time to time. The GBA and DS are great targets for old school RPGs that simply cannot be fully enjoyed anymore. Hence the FF ports have done great on the GBA. However, a game that is on a system that is still in more homes than practically anything else, like Bully on the PS2, is not needed for a port job. New games, however, are needed.

Well, I'm now trying to learn my way around D-TV programming off of Comcast, through skipping the cable box. I have a cable box on my analogue RF input, but I have the cable signal split and fed into my D-TV RF input directly. I get a good amount of channels, and it's the only way to get HD on my new TV without paying Comcast for another HD box.

However, the QAM signal codes or channels are beyond my experience. I have about 100 channels/sub-channels, and I can figure out the easy ones (like our local channels of 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13) that have a direct connection between old analogue channels and new QAM channel numbers. However, I'm left with a lot of stuff I don't know, a few too many crap channels (one for every local city and county government), and a lot of audio only channels that I do not have the patience to sit through until I hear the station identify itself.

Sadly, there are communities of online people determined to solve this QAM code combination, but it's a pain to sift through it all to find a comprehensive channel guide in QAM.

At least, in the end, it's a lot more enjoyable to lounge in bed when you have 42" of plasma staring you in the face than to have an old school analogue only 26" doing the same job.


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