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Malik (9/17/07)

There was no post last Friday since I was in a bad state of food poisoning and a complete lack of sleep (food poisoning does not allow for a good night of sleep).

As for today, things must remain short since I just spent two entire hours commuting to work. A normally 30 minute commute turned into a living hell as the standard conditions of a Seattle area commute struck hard. Despite how Seattle gets plenty of wet driving days (it doesn't always rain here, but it does more than a fair amount of days), drivers in this region don't know how to drive on wet roads. It doesn't make much sense, but when it rains, you just have to hope the accidents are either on a different roadway than you're using or that they're minor. Today, it was a semi blocking half of I-5 at it's busiest stretch in the region. In other words, my commute turned into an average crawl of 7 MPH (despite the last two miles being me speeding like a bat out of hell to make up for some lost time).

To get on to what will probably be a usual nearly weekly occurrence; the Seahawks.

Holy f#@$ did they butcher their game against the Cards. It was bad enough how, for the second game in a row, the Seahawks allowed their competition to dominate the first half of the game. That was bad. It was like the Seahawks thought they were in a practice game.

What made it worse was how much Alexander was being used. He was injured, had a giant club of a cast on his left hand, and he was obviously taking fewer risks to keep his left wrist secure. That was bad enough, but then Morris (Alexander's backup) was out, so the Seahawks refused to drop down on the running game and rely on the quality of a potentially strong receiving package.

True, Alexander did make a few nice runs, including one TD. However, he also was not gaining much for his average yards per rush. He was not in the game, and thus he should not have been in the game. Especially during the final drive, when things mattered so damned much, and when he fumbled a standard hand off that resulted in the game being lost. The teams were tied, and the Seahawks were getting right up to ideal Josh Brown FG range. However, instead of relying on Strong (who did some nice rushes) to run the ball, Holmgren and Hasselbeck had to rely on Alexander.

That was bad enough, but when Holmgren refused to play clock management on the final Arizona drive (the drive which resulted in their game winning FG), the Seattle fate was sealed. Instead of getting the ball back with about a minute left (easy enough to do with the timeouts Seattle had left), Seattle received the kick off with exactly 1 second in play. This was a failure, but only from two simple main aspects;

An injured player was put into too important of a position, and Holmgren, as usual, forgot how to use defensive time management. The clock is a precious thing, and the way Holmgren managed it was abysmal. It was not good that the Seattle team played like ass for the first half (17 unanswered points from Arizona to kick things off), but when the momentum shifted, it was time to play with intelligence...not just some luck and a surge of adrenaline.

If Seattle cannot take down Arizona, then how will the rest of the season go when we play far more worthy of teams? Tampa Bay is understandable as a team to beat, but Arizona should be in that same category.


Malik (9/18/07)

I am now nearing the end of my time with Blue Dragon. I'm in the final stretch of dungeons (it's one dungeon, but in a weird setup that makes it feel like multiple dungeons). I should be done with all of my goals for this game in the next day or two...depending on how much time I have free this evening.

The only thing I was hoping to do on the game that I just could not accomplish was killing the two overly powerful optional bosses. I'm talking about Gold Mecha Robo and Giant Poo Snake King (or whatever their actual names are). I tried to take on the Poo King and got my ass handed to the most brutal of fashions.

It's interesting how easy BD can be as a whole, yet the optional areas, especially these two unique enemies/bosses, are insanely hard. I think Sakaguchi and Mistwalker need to take a moment and think about this for their future games. A game can be pretty easy and be fun, but BD has been a cake walk compared to just about any other RPG I've played.

For example, the last dungeon has a string of boss fights. Each one should prove to be a great challenge, considering they are required to face the final challenge and battle of the game. However, last night I fought the first two of these final mini-bosses, and each one went down before it had a single opportunity to attack me. Yet, I still cannot beat a giant snake made of poo that wears a crown.

Anyway, I think I'm growing beyond the optional uber boss phase of my life. These were interesting in games like FFVII (the weapons), but they just don't offer enough to make it worth my while. True, these types of bosses were usually the ones who'd give you no real important item and only a chance to brag about beating them (if that was your cup of tea). However, the problem with these bosses are two-fold.

The first problem is how they are always so much harder than the final boss of a game. This means that once you're strong enough to face them, then you'll be able to sleep walk through the remainder of the game.

The second problem is that these bosses require a lot of grinding to get ready for them, but with no real return on that time investment. True, some exceptions exist (Tales of the Abyss offers a optional boss that is harder than anything else in the game and will still give some cool weapons in return), but most just result in either bragging rights, or in the 360 era, achievement points (which mean even less to me than bragging rights...which mean nothing as it stands). True, you could be a completionist and go for every possible fight and item in a game, but that's just not worth it when the game will just end soon enough anyway.

Anyway, once I lay BD to rest, I'll probably return to Metroid Prime 3. At least that's one plan. However, after playing an epic RPG, I think I may be better off playing something more action packed and more likely to appeal to my adrenaline loving side of the brain. In other words, I may have to finally pick up Stranglehold to get my silly John Woo and Chow Yun Fat fix...then MP3 could get some of my attention.


Malik (9/19/07)

First of all for today, I'm sick as hell. Normally, I can see a sickness coming up on me. My throat will start to feel funny and that will be my warning sign to start taking things easy, getting extra rest, and using Zicam (my favorite unproven method to keep me going). This time I went from fine to flat out sick in, literally, 45 minutes. So, if things start to get weird sounding, just account that to the viruses running crazy in my body.

There's a reason I don't put much stock in what analysts say. Namely, it usually goes against all wisdom. For example, when I hear that the 360 will be a distant last behind the PS3 in 2012, I can't help but think of a few things.

First of all, unless Sony really pulls a rabbit out of their asses, there is no way the PS3 will be able to come back into being a favorite. Sony has just failed on too many levels to get anywhere important with the PS3 unless the whole environment changes. However, if you want to talk about sales for the year 2012, and only for that year, then there's a good chance the 360 would be in last place since the 360 would have been replaced by the 720 (or whatever Microsoft calls the XBox 3) by that point. The 360 would have passed it's expected lifetime by 2 years at this point in time. However, Sony claims the PS3 will have a ten year life span (not going to happen), so if Sony holds true to what they say (never happened before), then they will have the lead over the 360 for that year.

The only true part of this horrible guessing game is that the DS will be the best selling game system of all time, as of 2012. That's obvious since it's the only true system to ever reach all levels of gamers (and many levels of non-gamers). The Wii will also continue to do well since it's on track to imitate the DS in the mass appeal category.

Speaking of the Wii, this is what I've expected and hoped for since the Wii was announced. Yes, Star Wars in all it's interactive glory. Wielding a lightsaber with one hand and the force in the other...that is what the Wii can bring that no other console can hope to achieve.

Also, it's no surprise that Smash Brawl is going online. Considering the Wii is online and that people like fighting games online, this only makes sense. I don't know how much I'd go for this feature, but it's nice to see. I'd probably skip the online, even with friends, just because there is something that almost feels sacred to me about playing a game like this with friends in the same room. You need to taunt, ask questions, learn new techniques, and just get you real gaming experience that can only be found with four people battling it out in the same location.

To make one last subject shift, I finished Blue Dragon last night. As for the obvious question; with over 66 hours of play time (on my final save) and $60 to get in, the game was, for me, well worth the price of admission. True, it didn't exactly innovate any new ideas for RPGs, and it was entirely old school, but that's what made it worth my time and money. If it was a supposedly "innovative" RPG like Square Enix is now known for, then I doubt I could have had this fun.

I still have only one major qualm. Without making a Hong Kong gamer tag (to download their Live Marketplace content for BD), the game has no hard mode or New Game+. This game doesn't need the New Game+, since I don't see myself needing another play through anytime soon. But it does need some challenge. Like I stated yesterday, BD is very easy. How easy? Easy enough that the final boss of the game went down after making only one single attack/action, and that action only caused about 10% damage to each member of the party (with two healers in my group who can cast spells twice per action, this didn't mean shit).

So, I would like for BD to have given me a real challenge, but none the less, I still would recommend this game to anyone who needs a good old school RPG to remind them of that glorious age of RPGs (SNES through PSX) of years gone. It's hard to find any reminder of those great lost days, and this is the only true one I can think of for the current generation (DQ8 being one of the few for the last generation).

Now to continue being sick and disorientated. We return you to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.


Malik (9/20/07)

I am now officially sicker than I should be to be at work. I mean any type of work; be it posting or my actual paying job. Sadly, I have no choice but to work today since I have some deadlines that are, sadly, more important than anything else I've dealt with at work before. So, to keep up with these horrible deadlines, I'm still working and trying to survive one hell of a cold or a medium strength flu.

Since I'm feeling like shit, I'll focus on something that makes me upset (and anger usually helps to keep my head clear when I'm miserable). I'm talking about games that are incredibly popular, but just don't offer enough to justify their popularity.

On one hand, there's Kingdom Hearts. Three more of these games are on their way and the simple fact, as far as I can see, is that they only really remain popular for two reasons; people will worship Square Enix for anything due to what they were once capable of making. I'm talking about games like the original batch of Final Fantasy games, the first two Star Ocean games, the Mana games that ended with Legend of Mana on the PSX, and other franchises that once held so much sway over setting the bar for RPG quality. Luckily, DQ games have always held this bar high (although the more I hear of DQ9, I more I become afraid).

The other reason is that there are a lot of emo and goth people who will worship anything with Cloud, Sephiroth, or Tidus because they represent the highest levels of emo and goth ideals. Toss in a game world set to The Nightmare Before Christmas, and you have the goth/emo Square fanboy heaven.

As for the Kingdom Hearts games, in their whole, they are a sad attempt at making a game franchise that takes all of the worst elements of this genre (action RPG). I tried to like the first KH game, but I was stuck in a world that had horrible camera control (if you can disagree with this, it's really a sign of fanboyism), a unfriendly to use menu system for combat (the d-pad combined with both analogue and the buttons is not a smooth situation), and a story that was overly emo, saccharine, and full of so much fluff that you could never tell why you were expected to keep playing. For anyone who's claimed that a non-Square game like Blue Dragon (or even Enchanted Arms) has a poor story, it still beats the crap out of "Where in the Disney World is Mickey Mouse?"

The other game franchise that really gets on my nerves is Halo. I know, between saying KH sucks and now Halo, there's a wonderful chance I've angered you, dear reader. I'm sorry to say it, but Halo, the first game, was the only one to offer anything to write home about. It's not that it offered a new setting (one man looking like the Doom guy facing hordes of creepy and nasty looking aliens...sound like Doom to me). It's not that it offered amazing new weapons (like Half-Life 2 did, with the gravity gun), unless you count the lame as shit needler. It did not give co-op or deathmatch before anyone else had the smarts to bring those to a FPS.

The only thing Halo did was it showed, like how Mario 64 did with 3D platformers, that a FPS can be found on a console and it can play with a good level of control...despite lacking a mouse and keyboard. That was all it really gave us. That was once good enough (and I used to love Halo...maybe I still do), but there's a point when you have to ask for more.

Did Halo 2 give more? No. It really did not. It gave us the same game modes (but with online for the multiplayer...but online and FPS was not invented by Bungee), the same weapons with only a little fine tuning, and the same general game world. Yes, there was the energy/plasma sword, but that was a little too broken in multiplayer. The only real exceptions were that you could use dual wielding of small weapons (would've been cool, if the small weapons did not fail compared to a nice setup of a large assault riffle and a fist full of grenades). You also had more instances of when the friendly NPCs would fight along side you...which was not a good thing. Now that they could take control of vehicles, it just meant you had to blow up all vehicles you found or kill all of your friends to insure they did not instant kill you by running you over (and they did that...a lot).

Halo 2 also offered a let down for the plot. I doubt any Halo 2 fan could name someone who enjoyed the incredibly abrupt cliffhanger. I doubt anyone can get over the Metal Gear Solid 2 style of game design that left you playing as someone who simply didn't give a f#@$ about. Then the forced feelings of them trying to make the game have some pseudo-religious and philosophical message in the plot was just not needed.

Truth be told, by the time Halo 2 was up and running, there were a good few dozen FPS on the PC that would simply make Halo 2 look like it was a few years too old to be new. Between Half-Life 2 and Battlefield 1942, a PC gamer was covered for FPS for both single and multiplayer modes.

So, with Halo 3 on the horizon, I'm simply not excited or all that interested. I bought Halo 2 when it first launched. I was excited, and found more of the same Halo that I liked...but by then the original just was feeling stale to me. I do like the idea of four player co-op (since co-op is something more FPS and other genres need to find room for). However, Halo 2 left me not caring about how the plot ends (since H2 was so abrupt and insulting in it's plot), the pickups/items don't matter (I've seen them in plenty of FPS games before), and because of the long term hype that Microsoft has been pumping out, as well as the news media, I really feel tired of the game before it's even really out.

When you consider what else is new and/or coming out soon to the US gaming market, I can't care about this game anymore. We have Guitar Hero 3 (the least of the new games), Rock Band, Valve's Orange Box (especially Portal and Team Fortress 2), Smash Brawl, Mario Galaxy, Beautiful Katamari, and even the impressive Metroid Prime 3 (a sequel that did deliver something new and improved)...I could go on for quite a while. It's a good season for games, and a re-hashed FPS is not going to be even near the top of my list. I may pickup Halo 3 (if Velveeta is interested in co-op, since it's so hard to find a game she'll play through with me), but it's not going to be an urgent purchase for this geek.


Malik (9/21/07)

I'm finally starting to feel a bit more like my normal self. It's about time after feeling like complete crap since the second part of Tuesday. I still don't feel awesome, by any means, but I do feel like I'm able to think and play games again.

I think that's probably the worst part of being sick. It's almost impossible to do anything beyond sit or lie on a couch and watch really dumb movies and bad TV shows. When you're so sick as to not have any thinking ability, it's really hard to keep yourself entertained. You have to rely on cable movies that are bad enough to not require any thinking, but good enough to not make you feel more sick.

In other words, being sick is the ideal time to recognize the rare occasion to enjoy a Jerry Bruckheimer film. They always have a good steady amount of pointless action, a plot that simple enough to be enjoyed by those who cannot think clearly (making them into good drinking films as well), and the plot never tries to put on too preachy of a message.

So, I spent three hours last night enjoying (surprisingly I did enjoy) National Treasure. It's one think to have a bad Bruckheimer film, but it's even better when you have Nicolas Cage in the mix.

I never watched the movie before, since I like to avoid giving my money to anything Bruckheimer does, since it's like paying for a package that's full of air, but when it's free on USA and your mind is right (or sick), then it's perfect. I know I would've hated the movie under different circumstances, but for what it's worth, it was a fun movie last night.

Anyway, now that Blue Dragon is no longer taking up my time, I'm looking for another game to devote some time to. I know, Halo 3 is coming soon. Like I said yesterday, I really don't want to think about Halo 3 right now, unless I can get Velveeta to play it in co-op. Otherwise, the game would simply be a waste of my money.

So, I'm thinking about picking up Stranglehold soon. Considering how much time the demo took from me, I should be well rewarded with this game. Also, it should be quick enough to beat before Beautiful Katamari comes along next month. Unfortunately, it might be a little too short to get me through the entire time until Katamari comes back into my life.

It's times like these that make we want to replay an old classic. Unfortunately, I may not have enough time for anything that's calling out to me right now. Xenogears would be way too much of a time kill, and FF3 (I've been meaning to replay the DS game for a while now) might be in the same classification. I guess I could get ready for Katamari to return with some old Katamari titles. I think what I'm saying is this; I don't know what I'm going to be playing, or if I'll even find something good to kill some time, so my posts for the next couple of weeks may be even more random than usual.

At least with feeling better, I should be good to go for (the poorly named) Endfest Super Sweet 16 tomorrow. I've been looking forward to this concert for the last month and a half, and I would have hated having to pass it by because of sickness. It'd be one thing to miss some of these groups in a solo concert, but to miss Satellite Party (who are rumored to be playing some classic Jane's Addiction), The Smashing Pumpkins, and (especially) Social D in one day...and with the cost of the tickets...


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