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Malik (9/25/06)  

To follow up on the Sony news of last week (in which the PS3 got HDMI on all models and the price was dropped considerably for the cheaper Japan), Kaz Hirai, SCEA President, has announced that the PS3 will not get a price drop in the US. I think it's also safe to say that this lack of change will apply to Europe and Australia. However, the HDMI output on the cheap Japanese PS3 does apply to the cheap American, European, Australian...all of the cheap PS3 models around the world. So, while the price stands as crap-tacular, at least the hardware is slightly improving.

I started off my weekend on the right foot. I saw, with a bunch of friends, Jackass 2. Well, in a nut shell, if you liked the show and the first movie, then this is the best movie for you for the summer (Yes, I realize summer ended mid last week). Between the concepts and the long running jokes, Jackass 2 has the right mix of classical Jackass materials along with some new stuff that is just flat out insanity. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a movie in the theater as thoroughly as I did that one.

I also took some more time this weekend to enjoy some Enchanted Arms. I'm still feeling pretty torn on this game. I feel like it's a solid RPG, the battle system is great, the plot is really interesting...but the game itself just feels like there are a few things missing. I don't think I could name any of them (QUALITY CONTROL!) off hand (TESTING PRIOR TO BEING RELEASED), but I'm sure something is out there. I guess a few minor tweaks to the battle system wouldn't have hurt. For example, being able to arrange a preferred party setup for battle instead of always standing in random locations on the battle grid would've been nice...since I sure don't get why my meat shield, who has a very short range, keeps starting in the rear of the battle while my gun packing long-range glass marksman always starts in the front.

I may have mentioned it before, but there were some minor issues with the porting of this game to America. At one point, Makoto goes off about something in Japanese text, and a few instances have the text not formatted to the screen (there's no word wrap going on). It's not major, and it's almost always when dealing with very unimportant dialogue...but it still is a little annoying for a player like me, who enjoys seeing all of the dialogue in a game.

I still love this game, especially since my Japanese RPG selections have been limited lately...unless I'm in the mood for endless time-kill from NIS strategy RPGs...but that's not what my mood is needing right now. It's also more enjoyable, to me, than recent FF games.

However, since I felt the need to break away from RPG non-action for a bit, so I went out and got Lego Star Wars: The Original Trilogy yesterday. I never did play the first game, since I heard it was very short and too easy. It's a poor reason...but the price never reaching my need for a short and easy game was the real complete reason. I may have to go back for it after how much I'm enjoying Lego SW2.

The game is definitely easy to play, since you do have infinite lives...and you come back at the exact point you die. However, it's one hell of a game to try to master. There is just way too much to see and to do. Each level has a few dozen hidden items to collect, Easter eggs to find, and other wacky things that just NEED to be discovered. I can easily see myself playing this game to completion and then coming back for more until I truly feel I've mastered the game.

The main reason I bought this game was to have a simple and easy to pick up co-op game for either playing with Velveeta or when a friend might be hanging out. I've yet to try the co-op, but I think, considering how well the single player is controlling, that co-op will be a damned good time kill to end all time kills.

Well, I have many things to do right now, and not that much time. It's another week of me fighting for attention and some lack of attention from recruiters and head hunters. It's also another week of me being over worked and just wanting to play some good old games. Viva the American dream!


Malik (9/26/06)  

A small update on this whole crazy next-gen thing; Nintendo is expecting one million Wiis at the North American launch. It's hard to know for sure what this means. After all, while it's more than many console makers have supplied at launches in the past, it still is very likely that the first shipment will be sold out in the blink of an eye. This will especially be interesting since there is a lot of vocal support for Nintendo right now. The real question will be if the vocal support will transfer into monetary support (in other words, will people buy it?).

Another good question is when we will see the pre-orders open up at a place besides I for one would rather do my usual of pre-ordering than to arrive in line at some unheard of game store at 7AM on a Sunday. I imagine, with final numbers looking like they are either here or will be concrete in a very short time, we will have this part of the puzzle solved in the next week.

On the other end of things (the "already in our homes" end), a FEAR demo is now up on the 360 Marketplace. I really wish I could get excited about this...oh how I wish it. However, when we are seeing another FPS demo, for another ported PC's just hard to feel much for it. Throw in the fact that most people who cared about FEAR are now long over it since it came out last year on the PC, and it all seems a little weak.

I think this may be one of the most important obstacles that Microsoft needs to overcome in order to prove the 360 is worth a place in the living room. They need to show that more variety can be found on the 360 than sports (which everyone gets), FPS (which are usually PC ports), and racing games. There is a lot more to gaming than to just give console players what PC gamers already have. This is where developers like Mistwalker play an important role...but it's also where there is simply too little creative input.

The 360 is a massive piece of hardware (I don't mean size) that can pull off some really nifty feats with a relatively low install cost. However, in reality, I can make a PC for about the same price that will run most of these same games. Don't get me wrong; I am a 360 owner, and damned proud of it. However, I also own a gaming PC, or two, that can handle most of the 360 games, since most come to the PC either at the same time, or even earlier than they come to the 360. Toss out that mods on the PC games are typically free, compared to the microtransactions of nearly all 360 content, and the PC is just a less expensive (if you know what you're doing) 360.

It is time for Microsoft to shake things up a bit with some truly amazing 360 exclusive titles. It's also time for them to bring them out to everyone's attention. With the November hell soon upon us, Microsoft is the only company with anything to lose and to prove. The Wii (Zelda), the PS3 (MGS4), the DS (FF3)...they are all covered with enough fanboys and good titles to show their worth. The 360, on the other hand, needs to assert it has more in store than just ports and a web camera.

Well, it's another shorter post today. Just way too much to do and not a damned second to pause and think things through.


Malik (9/27/06)  

Some small bits of news before I go into a classical Malik rant...

The Wii will have a free Opera browser included with console ownership. That is, it will be free until June of next year, at which point it will sell on the Wii Chanel Shop. Is it just me, or is this incredibly unimportant? Have any of these people involved in making the Wii browser ever tried to web browse at 480 (p or i...doesn't matter)? I know I have when I used s-video hookups to use my PC on one of my old TVs. Let me just tell you, it is not a fun experience when text becomes a factor. Either your text is too small and illegible, or you are left with not nearly enough text per page to make it worth being more than a simple novelty. Pass.

Square Enix will be sharing RPG love between all three of the new consoles. Sorry, but I can't feel too excited about this one either. Am I the only gamer in the world who honestly feels that Square Enix has lost their way? Ok...if a new Dragon Quest comes along, I'll get it...assuming it doesn't change from the nostalgia induced formula that has hit all previous DQ games. However, aside from that one franchise, SE is really making me wonder how they can remain afloat. Dierge of Cerberus is an abomination, Star Ocean 3 was full of AI that makes one think of Atari 2600 era AI, 360 has a port of an ancient PC/PS2 port in FFXI, and all other SE derived FF games have become so emo that I would rather listen to a few hours of Fallout Boy and Panic! at the Disco than to play even a minute of these games. I would only find this news exciting if SE also announced that they would be bought out BY Mistwalker.

As for my rant...I have been looking at a lot of reviews lately. Not for games I want to get since I have done my research ahead of time. Rather, I was wanting to see how the games I've been playing (to completion) have ranked in the minds of the so-called professionals. Well, I have a few things to say on this subject...

First off, I cannot tell you how many reviews I've seen for Enchanted Arms from people who obviously did not play for more than a few hours. For example, I've seen a half dozen reviews talking about how Makoto (the infamous gay character...oh dear! A character can be gay!?) ruins the game. Well, let's just say this (skip to the next paragraph to avoid SPOILERS) will not deal with his gay antics until the very end of the game after the first major story arc is setup. In other words, about 1 hour into the game, he gets crushed by a huge f#@%ing boulder of ice. Dead! Gone! (MORE SPOILERS) At least until the end when you are shown some plot twists.


Also, I've seen a few too many reviews stating that you can use the auto battle option for all of the game to hurry along an "uninspired" battle system. This is two loads of bull shit for the price of one. The battle system is far from uninspired and is in fact one of the best I've seen in an RPG. It uses the same system as the Megaman RPGs on the GBA. You have a small grid to contend with for your characters, and limited movement and ranges of attacks. The enemies have the same exact grid to also use. Then you enter some really good strategy based battle scenarios. While there are some points when battles become too frequent, they will never be least as opposed to FF's method of always pounding the A/X button to just keep attacking.

As for the auto battle feature being usable in all battles...complete f#@%-tarded bull shit. This is a sure way to tell if someone played the game to completion prior to reviewing; if they say auto battle is always the easy and quick option. Auto battle is good for the first 5 hours of the game. During this time, the enemies are easier (it is the start of a fairly long game) and you are limited on what attacks you can use. This beginning phase is more of a chance to learn the battle system than to learn the advanced skills. After about 5 hours of game time has passed, if you are using auto battle, you will see your idiotic AI killing your party. The only time auto battle is worth the effort is if you have only one or two enemies left and with only about 10% of their full HP. Then you can let the AI take care of clean up.

I actually tested what I just said last night. I tried to use only auto battle as I traveled to the next area I needed to explore in the game. Let's just say that I did not make it alive. However, once I stopped using auto battle and used some human common sense, I got through the same area without taking more than a few minor scratches. Why? Because I used strategy and my strategy is far better than AI stupidity any day of the week.

So, my big summary for these Bitchings are that reviews need to be complete. If you do not play through all or nearly all of a game, and you still put out a review that is paying the bills (magazine, professional web site, etc), then you are an ass. Not only that, but you will convince some of the less informed to avoid a game that may be just right for them.

My other side of these Bitchings is on comparing games. How is Saint's Row just like GTA:SA, but more refined (according to many reviews), yet it scores so much lower? I've seen an average around a 9.5/10 for GTA:SA review scores. However, Saint's Row, which (and I'm not the only one to say fact, 95% of reviewers say this) is so much more refined and offers a deeper and more believable experience with more diversions and more closure to the plot only gets an average in the 8.0 neighborhood. What the f#@%?

I've also seen the same type of crap with Enchanted an abstract way. So, the plot on EA is (supposedly...I could not disagree more) the most cliché RPG plot to grace our consoles since...well...ever. However, a new FF game will always be called innovative in the plot department. Sorry, but how is a whiny brat named Tidus crying for daddy while stuck up Yuna pouts about her fate in life exciting, novel, or even worth my time? Yes, I have played through FFX, as well as ALL other core FF games, and these plots have never been anything but cliché. Even FF1, which was near the start of console RPGs was cliché when it first hit the shelves. Meanwhile, EA uses a plot dealing with a thousand year old war machine on the lose in an very interesting take on the world, who is set about using your best friend as her own personal battery. Did I also mention that your arm is intelligent...and evil? That's in there. How about a giant city in the desert built entirely around the ruins of 1000 years ago and the society of junk dealers who scavenge this pit of a town for a livelihood? There is some cliché factors, but the whole experience is far less cliché than anything seen in a core FF game.

The same goes for the battle systems (when is the last FF game that's part of the core FF series that you could not just pound the A or X button until you finally hit a boss? I honestly can't think of one), which has FF always called nostalgic, but a game like EA has it defined as cliché and boring (when it's one of the most intriguing novel battle systems to hit console RPGs in a long time).

I won't even touch how the reviews for Lego Star Wars 2 (the reviews describe a wonderful game that's an instant classic...but then call the game crap in the final scores?!) have been...or recent Dynasty Warrior games. Hey! If the game is not your cup of tea, don't be a dick about it. DW games may be the same game over and over again, but it doesn't lower the value of any new titles to the eyes of a person who's never played it before. If a game is to be called or scored as crap, then it better be a bad game...not a bad game to you because you've done that same sort of game before. Toss out a note about how the game may not be for the players of previous entries in that genre/franchise...but don't knock a game for sticking to a winning formula. A previous game in the franchise or the same genre may set a high bar, but can we honestly fault everything that would've looked good had it not been for this one outstanding title? Not if we don't want to come off as elitist snobs.

If a game is going to be reviewed, I have only two requests. Review it under the same standards that the blockbusters (GTA, FF, MGS, etc) are reviewed under. That, and review a game only when you've played through enough to offer a valid opinion. Is that really that difficult? I think not...I personally do it and I've yet to have a problem doing so.

If you're wondering what sent me over the edge enough to make this rant, I'll just say it was the Game Informer review of Enchanted Arms...that and reading their letters to the editor section, in which they seemed deaf to the writings of anyone who wasn't there to shout "I love GI!!111!" Anyway, I get the magazine for free, so I will read it...and that's my first problem.

Ok. Enough random Bitchings for the day. I need to play some of my "mediocre" games, like Lego SW2, EA, and Saint's Row. I have self esteem issues, apparently (/sarcasm).


Malik (9/29/06)  

Yesterday was another one of "those" days. No post, and a loooong as hell interview. I really hope this one gets me some good news since it is as close to what I can think of calling a "dream job" without just being paid millions of dollars to play games all wouldn't that be nice?

I did, however, have some time free in the morning, prior to the interview. I spent all of this time playing the last bits of Enchanted Arms. Once again, I reiterate what I said on my previous post; there is no way anyone could've fully played this game if they say that either the battle system sucks or that the battles can always be turned over to the AI. Hell, after leveling like a madman, the final boss still gave me the game over screen more times than I saw the entire game. In fact, I saw that screen more times from one fight on EA than I've seen in other RPGs, all put together, in my whole geeking life.

Best of all, after barely beating the final boss (if my final attack of my time I beat it did not land even 90% of the damage it did, I would've seen that game over screen another time), EA follows the old school rule of RPGs; the final boss never battles once. In EA, this boss battles twice...and then the true final boss arrives to fight for another 5 or so battles. You are given the ability to save one in the mess of combat...but it still won't allow you to hit an item shop (which you'll need after blowing all of your healing items on the first form of the final boss).

My point in saying all of this? That the battle system is fan-freakin-tastic! The only way this type of difficulty could be justified is with a battle system that allows this much challenge to ensue and to allow the boss to only be beaten when you strategize your tactics. This was both the most frustrating and most fulfilling boss battle I've ever seen in an RPG. With the exception of one very tedious to obtain party member (a special golem), there is no simple easy to obtain Knights of the Round style "I Win!" attack. It's you, your party, and a lot of pain.

So, with EA down, I'll now get to what should be a very fair and balanced review. Not the type of crap that complains about Makoto (which is only involved in the game, in his gay glory, for the first and last hour of the game), about how all battles can be beaten with "auto battle" (which only works for 3-5 hours before the AI is just too f#@%-tarded), or how the game is cliché (which it is not any more so than any great Tales, Phantasy Star, or Lunar game). Just an honest review.

I'll also be able to have some of my schedule clear for Tales of the Abyss, when it hits next month. Considering TotA uses the same general combat engine as ToS, but with some new perks, this should definitely be enjoyable. Toss in the usual brilliance of a Namco RPG plot, and I think I'll be in paradise until November. Plus, it'll be nice to give my PS2 some time to warm up for Guitar Hero 2.

I also aim to now get to fully playing Lego Star Wars 2. I've had the game for almost a week and I spent most of that time playing EA. Now that that behemoth has been slain, LSW2 is going to get all of my affection (until October 10th...TotA...). I think the only reason I've not given much time to this game, so far, is because I know I would've become too addicted and gave up on EA prematurely...the sacrifices we must make...

Well, I have much to do, to make up for my long interview day yesterday. So, I'm out for now.


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