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Malik (9/18/06)  

This is my least favorite type of moment. It's Monday morning (as I type, not post) so I'm tired as hell, and there's almost nothing to talk about. If you try looking for any geekish news, you'll see one simple fact; no real news has surfaced since Thursday, since Thursday was just too big of a news day. In case you need a short refresher, you can check out last week's post from Friday...but you probably don't need any reminder of all that Nintendo announced.

I am enjoying that this news was taken so well by so many geeks. I have always had a special place in my heart for the big N. After all, the first console I dropped any money on as a kid was the NES. Before that thing moved into my home, my brother had a Gameboy, which was the first modern console to grace our home (unless you consider the Commedore 64 or the Intellivision to be modern). After the 16-bit wars erupted, it was Nintendo I first turned to (even if a Genesis wasn't too far behind...along with the Sega CD)...or I should say my brother and then myself.

So, to see Nintendo reclaiming the love of a lot of geeks is a nice turn of events. After all, we have seen Nintendo's low moments too many times lately. We started with them f#@$ing around with what would be their strongest competitor (where do you think the Playstation originated from? It was Nintendo's child...well, they were the abusive and neglectful father), then the Vitrual Boy, then the N-64, the N-64 Disk Drive, and then the lackluster attempt they tried at pissing off the third party world with the Gamecube. If it could've been handled better, then it was done by Nintendo and it was too small to be placed in a coat pocket.

However, the Wii is looking like it may not only correct all of these errors, but it may also bring about a nice breath of fresh air to the gaming market. With the concepts that Nintendo has placed up front (new control ideas, a Zelda at launch, the Virtual Console, teaming with Sega and NEC for the VC, and a more lighthearted and game centered concept), it's looking like a good contender for the number one or two spot this generation. Plus, from the sounds of things, Nintendo will offer enough consoles at launch to make most of the Sony faithful feel a bit uncertain of what Sony was thinking with not holding back the PS3 launch.

So, I'm only left with one great question on all of this; what are the absolute final numbers going to be? Also phrased as, "When can I pre-order or is it just not worth doing so?" I think that's also the question on many gamers' minds.

Anyway, with me rambling like this, it's probably obvious that there just isn't much to talk about. Well, there is one thing...

I spent a few hours this weekend playing more of Enchanted Arms. I have to say that despite the horrible reviews (a lot of 6/10 and below) this game has seen from many places, I honestly think it's pretty good. There is some stuff that leaves me wanting more, but then again, that can be said about most games. Especially RPGs.

As for the nuts and bolts, this game is pretty solid. The visuals are amazing, the audio is great (as long as you don't count the typical lack of talent in RPG voice actors), the plot is definitely different and pretty original compared to...say...most non-Suikoden RPGs that have come along in the last 10 years. The only issue I have at all, at this point in the game, is that battles can be a bit annoying.

For example, if you finish a battle in one round, or less, you will be fully healed afterwards, for free. This is pretty nice. However, if you take damage or more time, then your characters will lose VP (1 per round, plus up to about 10 for damage). Once you run out of VP, you start all battles with 1 HP and 1 EP (think of EP as points needed to do anything at all...including basic attacks). Well, I like this system, even though it sounds pretty weak and pathetic in text.

The part I do not like is that your characters have no battle formations. Each battle takes place on two 3 (deep) by 4 (wide) grids. You have one grid and the enemies have another. They line up real close to each other, but you can never cross grids. Well, your attacks are all given pre-set sizes and ranges, like one would find in a Shining Force game. The problem is that each battle starts with your party members in completely random squares in the grid. This means that any close attacker may me forced to the back corner at the start of combat, and thus could waste a whole round trying to get to the front row...where the gun slinger was placed for no apparent reason. If there was a way to at least tell the game that my tank/short range fighter should always be up front, and that my healer should always be in the middle, I'd be far happier.

Besides this one annoyance, the game is far more solid and original than the usual set of reviews would lead you to believe. In fact, I'm now about 40% through the game, and I honestly have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Well, there's just nothing else to, I'll just wrap this up right about now.


Malik (9/19/06)  

Wow...just wow. If you haven't heard of it yet, Gamestop/EB was testing a new idea in Hawaii. Basically, to pre-order a Wii or PS3, you'd have to place a $50 deposit on the system. That's nothing new. However, this deposit cannot be from cash, check, plastic, voucher, or whatever. It has to be in the last form of currency they take; used games. This is Gamestop's way to ensure a healthy amount of money, since pre-owned is big business for them.

This was all to gauge customer response to a possible nationwide plan of the same sort. Well, if customer response has been similar to the net response, I really don't see it happening in the rest of the US. After all, it sounds like most gamers, myself included, would rather just sell some shit on eBay and then use that to place a deposit instead of blowing money on trade-ins (which are a good financial option for Gamestop, but a bad one for use geeks).

Hopefully, despite this stupidity, the pre-order Wii situation becomes clear soon. While no time line is known, some people have stated that a deposit for a Wii may not be accepted until almost a month from now.

If it matters any, I've heard from Gamestop (unofficially, of course) that the PS3 will probably not even be available on a pre-order basis. With 400,000 systems being out there at launch, I was told that the number is just too hard to break down into pre-orders without entering another 360 nightmare scenario. So, if you are willing to waste that much money on a new system (I'm still in the mind set that that price tag is just too much to justify unless your name and "fanboy" go hand-in-hand), you will also have to waste some cold nights in line outside of Walmart or Best Buy.

I really wish I had more to discuss, but it's a slow news day and last night was not a good night for me to geek by. I was finally given a chance to end my long and annoying hunt for a new day job. However, I now have the option of either facing uncertainty a while more, taking a job right now (not too easy to do), or doing something that's against my ethics (the option the most people have recommended to me) times.

Anyway, that's about it for today...short and sweet.


Malik (9/20/06)  

There is some slightly interesting (depending on who you are) news from the pre-TGS announcements by Microsoft. In particular, the HD-DVD add-on for the 360 will run about $177 on November 22...that would be the, big surprise, Japanese price and release date, since it is the Tokyo Game Show. That's not a bad price for a HD-DVD player, considering what the full stand alone players are costing. However, if you're like me, then this doesn't mean shit.

After all, the HD-DVD versus Blu-ray versus holding on to standard DVD debate is getting stale with no winner. I don't mean "no clear winner". I mean there is no one side, or even two sides, that will come out ahead until some improvements are brought about. In particular, we need a good library of movies in both formats for both new devices/technology to show any real market saturation.

Of course, you could go one better and have a magical single disk that plays in HD-DVD, Blu-ray, and standard DVD formats without any of the hassles of picking a technology to sit in your living room. While this sounds like sarcasm, it's nice to see that it may become reality. Three Warner Brothers employees have actually filed a patent for such a special disk. In essence, the disk has each of the three formats on a single disk, in multiple layers, and since HD-DVD and Blu-ray both read from a different depth of a disk, this is entirely possible.

The big question on this approach is what the disks will cost to make and to own. If they end up going the same route as DVDs, then we may see some really amazing fights in the next-gen DVD war. More than that, we may soon have an incentive to buy into one, or both, of the new formats. However, if the prices more closely imitate the current HD-DVD/DVD combo disks, which tend to be pricier than either of the formats in separate disks, then this technology will be all for nothing. So, the ultimate question will be if this new concept in media can be applied without hitting a consumer extra hard. If the price difference can be kept down to something as minor as $5 over the price of a stand alone HD-DVD or Blu-ray disk, then this new patent may be something that can help settle this stupid next-gen battle...once and for all. That's also assuming that the movie studios would also take part and quit this partisan bullshit.

Back to Microsoft's pre-TGS stuff...Blue Dragon is set for a final release date in December for about $10 (equivalent...US dollars) less than Lost Planet, which makes a pretty good price for a game in Japan. Hopefully this means that localization work can be rushed along some to get this game to the US before it becomes an after Enchanted Arms kind of did.

Best of all, live videos of in game demonstrations of Lost Odyssey is finally coming along. Considering all of the hype this game has had, despite just being a minor concept with no concrete evidence of it's coolness, it's about time we finally get to see it in action. While it's nice to get excited about all that Mistwalker may bring to the 360, it's another thing to finally be given some reasoning behind this hype. In other words, it's nice to have something tangible.

One last bit about the 360...the 360 camera has been released. I wish I could say something good, but I see too much potential for how bad this could be. In all honesty, why the f#@^ would I want to see the people I'm playing against? I can just imagine playing something Live Vision enabled and seeing one fat kid bouncing off the walls while overly enjoying flipping off the camera, some random redneck dude in a beer stained wife-beater (or maybe even shirtless) balancing a beer in one hand while playing a game of Uno, and...well, let's just say that people playing games are usually either way too wound up or relaxed for me to ever want to see them.

Well, I need to wrap it up for today. Too much to do and...well, I think I'll just blow it all off and play some Enchanted Arms.


Malik (9/21/06)  

Interesting read...Nintendo has started to work with TakeTwo in making some sort of working relationship that will almost definitely see some baseball action on the Wii from TakeTwo. However, the rumors started over at Gamespot does a little bit of speculating and gives us an interesting scenario; can the Wii maybe see a little of the no-longer-Playstation-exclusive GTA?

While this would have seemed very weird and twisted in the pre-360 generation, it now makes some sense. With games like Red Steel set to make M-rated impacts on the Wii, a GTA game doesn't seem so far out of bounds. In fact, when you consider that the 360 and PS3 will both get GTA4 on the exact same day, a Wii version seems pretty possible. Is it likely? Probably not. But it is possible.

Also, since the Wii has the technological abilities of a XBox, give or take, this type of game would be quite at home on such a system. After all, while many like to think that next-gen is all about HD visuals, it's more about the gaming world, as a whole. I wouldn't bet on Nintendo getting any hardcore GTA games, but it still is a possibility, and that's good news since the main battle lines of the next-gen is what games are exclusive.

Speaking of next-gen...this is what I think of when I think of that dreaded phrase; changing the conventions of gaming to encompass some new techniques and features. I think of next-gen fitting more with how technology is used and less about how pretty the package is. So, on that note, I found this link via Penny-Arcade. Now this is what I like to see!

Basically, for the next Tony Hawk (Project 8...or whatever they're calling it), the game will feature a newly designed trick control system. Board flips will be controlled via the analogue sticks, with each one controlling a single foot of the skated while in an ollie. In other words, you now have full control of your tricks and it will be more important to be on the ball than to simply know what combination of button presses you can execute with a certain amount of air.

I also have to say that I can see the potential here for either something very cool or for something unbearably awful. Just think of how this game will play out, and you can probably see how it can turn out. On one hand, the controls are greatly refined (which is something THPS helped to pioneer for extreme sports games...awe inspiring controls). On the other hand, the controls are only friendly and fun for the same type of people who obsessively play Street Fighter on Live everyday. I think it'll be more of a case of awesome controls...but the potential for a nightmare scenario is there. At least this could be the first TH game to come out since THPS4 that I've actually wanted to buy on it's launch day.

On a different bit of news about looking into the future a little bit, Activision has announced that Guitar Hero games will grace "every significant new format". In other words, Guitar Hero will probably be finding it's way, in the next 6-12 months, onto the Wii, the PS3, and the 360. While the 360 bit is nothing new, and the PS3 stuff was pretty obvious, the Wii concept is sounding pretty cool. Considering how the spatial technology of the Wii is already in place, it might become a fair bit simpler to always execute a perfect launch of the star power gauge (one of my biggest beefs about Guitar Hero would be how the sensors in the controller can be a times).

However, like I felt when the 360 became a viable target for GH action, I like the fact that all three new systems are based on the idea of being able to download content/games. This opens up a great chance for all three new systems to have GH games with downloadable libraries of new music. I know that right now there would be nothing greater to fulfill me until GH2 comes out than a downloadable pack of a dozen new songs to keep me interested and in good guitar shape.

I just hope that this same ability is not used for evil. In other words, I hope Activision doesn't decide to milk people via micro-transactions like some game companies have done before. In other words, I don't want to see music limited on the actual game, and new music packs being introduced before the game has even hit the market. To tell the truth, this is not all that far fetched of a has been done before, and it very well will happen with some games in the future.

Well, I am still sinking in all that that new Tony Hawk video entails. I am awed by it's amazing potential. So, while I go off to watch that video a few more times, I shall call it a day for my post.


Malik (9/22/06)  

It's always an interesting time for all when Ken Kutaragi opens his mouth. 99% of the time, he's just pouring some form of corporate PR friendly bull shit down our throats. However, there are a few times when he speaks and tells the honest and brutal truth...these are about as often as a solar eclipse and usually carry the same level of amazement and disbelief that must have followed eclipse in the ancient world. In other words, if he speaks and it's actually not just him saying that "Sony is teh 1337-zor" then it's worth noting.

In this case, he's announced that the 20GB equipped PS3 will actually have an HDMI output. On top of that, the Japanese price has been dropped to about the equivalent of $430 instead of over $500. Interesting. Now, if he could pull off the same feat for the other regions, such as North America, then it would be truly noteworthy. In fact, if he did this same feat in the US, most of the talk of how the system is over-priced and that the low end model is a rip-off would cease.

Will this happen for the US? I seriously doubt it. This is Sony's desperate bid to reclaim their home turf before things get too out of hand (which happens in December). Americans, on the other hand, are expected to be more indulgent and thus we are expected to buy the system no matter what happens. It would be very likely that we'll get the HDMI outputs on all models, but that price is not going to shake any time soon.

In the end, I'd also expect the very obvious to happen. When the PS3 is launched in the US, I'd expect to find about 80% or more of them to be the $600 model. Why? It'll make a little more money for, like I said, we Americans are expected to be better target audiences for Sony (read: we are impulse buyers). So, if you like the thought of the $500, and if you expect the HDMI to come it's way in the US, you still will have one major hurdle to overcome...not finding any in stock. It'll be hard enough to find the $600.

On the other side of major console makers f$#@ing around...Microsoft is now making a special deal; all 360s made before January can be repaired, free of charge. Considering I was one of the 360 launch crowd, I cannot help but feel a little uneasy about this news. After all, my 360 is still working great, with no issues...but now I just feel a little less certain. I also can't help but wonder some more specifics on the finer details.

For example, will this deal last for a certain time line? If my 360 dies a year from now, will this free repair still be with me, since it's a launch 360, or will it have been too late by then? If there is no time line to this repair/refund deal, then I'd feel a little more confident. After all, that would mean I have a bullet proof 360, and I can happily play for the remainder of this generation and never worry about those silly little lights. Flash all you want, lights! I can take it!

However, if there is any imposed deadline on this repair offer, then it's like staring at a car wreck. Did the people survive? It looked bad! Is there still life to be found? You never know until it's too late, and my 360 is a car wreck from the looks of it...assuming there's a set end date to this offer.

No matter how you look at it, between this Microsoft news and the whole fiasco that will be the PS3 launch, I have but one thing to say; Nintendo, please release a lot of Wii, and let us gamers have one bit of hassle-free enjoyment this year! If I'm looking at over priced techno-crap on one hand, and a potential autopsy on the other...I just want to have that third option and be happy.

Speaking of which, my job hunt now has me facing another option...doing what I don't want to do, but taking a huuuuuuuuuge bonus in the process (let's just say it would cover over 2 months of what my current salary is). I like options...especially when they all involve me getting money!

On that note, I'm out for the weekend. I'll be seeing Jackass 2 tonight and then sitting through a wedding tomorrow. You win some, you lose some.


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