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Malik (9/26/05)  

It's another one of those slow days. On one hand, there's not much in the way of game news. On the other hand, I'm really tired. I think those two facts together make it into a day in which my post will probably end up quite brief. 

However, I didn't say there's no news...just very little. However, from the standpoint of an RPG geek, I do have to say the little blurb about Suikoden V coming to the US is definitely better news than one could ask for on a slow day. While it comes as no surprise that Konami will want this game to come to the US, it is good to get the confirmation. Considering how all of the past primary Suikoden games (in other words, Suikoden 1-4) have come to the US, and since the popularity of this series is growing in the US, it's safe to say that if a number six is made, it'll come our way too. 

I just hope, despite the little number of details that have come along for this game, that it will help to bring back the Suikodens of the past (mainly Suikoden 1 and 2). In other words, Konami needs to eliminate anything dealing with excessive time on ships, focusing on more than one potential hero, and definitely they need to bring back six member parties. In fact, that last point is what I'd consider the most important. After all, if you have a game with 108 characters who join your army, and about 2/3 can join your current active battle party, then you need more of a chance to utilize these people. I know that number 4, with it's four member battle parties, left me with little incentive to use anyone besides the four members I felt most comfortable with. 

Anyway, there's not much else to talk about. There's not much in the way of news, and I've sorta started my path of being burned out on Burnout Revenge (no pun intended). While Burnout 2 really held my interest from race 1 to the final race, Burnout Revenge (and Burnout 3, for that matter) has left me with a jaded feeling after the first half of the game. I am well over 50% done with the game, but I just can't feel like I have anything new to experience. Maybe the game is just too long...but I think it's more that the AI gets on your nerves after a while. I mean, I'll start a race, and 9 times out of 10, I'll get screwed by the unbalanced AI in the first 30 seconds of a race. It's not like this ends the current race. Instead it leaves you fighting an uphill battle until the finish line. I don't mind this, in some races, but not in 90% of the races. It also feels a little tiresome when I make that first big crash and still know that I'll probably win still, despite being in 6th place (out of 6). 

I stand by my review of saying this game is pretty damned good. It just doesn't have that lasting appeal that makes you want to finish every race. You feel like you get your money's worth after the first 25% of the game...however, at the end, you just aren't left with that feeling of wanting more...and despite how many people complain of games like KOTOR and KOTOR 2 being too short, they played for 30+ hours and left the player wanting more. That's how a great game should be. You should feel like the game was fun and addictive (which Burnout Revenge succeeds in), and it should leave you wanting "just one more" race/level/dungeon/whatever (and that's where Burnout Revenge falls short). 

I've been contemplating getting X-Men Legends 2. The only problem is trying to find a way to get another player or two involved. With a game like this, single player is like turning this game into a bastardized version of itself. Finding extra players is easy enough on the weekends, but it's not as easy on a weeknight, considering how most people I know are tied down with jobs and all of that "fun" crap...which is sad since it's the week nights when I need the escapism of video games the most. Blah. 

Too bad my need for a single player game couldn't be fulfilled by Square Enix. I normally wouldn't want to touch one of their games with a ten foot pole, ever since I've felt betrayed by them with each new game I purchased (ever since the pointless excuse for a plot and level-up system of FFX and the "bucket" of FF:CC), but I'd be willing to give Dragon Warrior 8 a chance. Too bad that Sony and Square Enix had to decide to make DW8 the game to compete with the 360. It just means, to me at least, that I'll have to put off DW8 and feel building feelings of fatigue with Square Enix and their tactics. 

By the way, for the PSP owners out there who understand how badly built the "nub" is, there's some good news. A new device by Xtender known as PSP2TV is coming out soon. It'll be a little pricey (around $120), but it will allow a PSP to be played on a regular TV. Beyond that, it also means that a UMD movie will no longer be a single viewer affair. It may actually begin to justify wasting $30 for a movie that costs $15-20 on DVD...or not. However, the best part of this deal is that it will allow a person to plug in a standard PS2 controller to play their PSP games. Also, it will have several mode selectors. I'm not sure what the "turbo" deal means, but the choice of 16:9 and 4:3 for viewing sizes will definitely make this more wide-screen compatible than the normal PS2. Also, it might actually mean that I will be able to give the PSP the correct treatment when reviewing games for other words, I can do some screenshots. 

I've seen some arguments against this device. Mainly saying that it's pointless since it's a portable system, and if you're playing a portable system, then you shouldn't have a TV present. I have to say the beauty of this device would be this; if you do go on a trip, and you stay in a hotel...well, think of how many hotels (or motels) have TVs with component inputs on them in the room. Now think of how much nicer that would be to use for your PSP than sitting a few feet from a 13"+ TV and instead just using you little PSP screen. I see some nice potential in this device for people who have to travel a lot for business. 


Malik (9/27/05)  

It's another slow day. Well, for news. I actually was able to get about 3-4 hours of Burnout Revenge last night, and it was all fun. Normally this game gets annoying after about 1-2 hours, so I usually call it quits then and try to not let too many bad feelings come into my mind about this game in one play session. After all, like I said in my Burnout Revenge review, this game is quite fun, but it will push your buttons. Well, when the game wants to act in a balanced and fair way for a whole 4 hours, it is damned fun. 

In fact, I don't think I've had this much fun with a Burnout game in a single sitting. It still doesn't make up for how my past experiences have always led to annoyance, but it was good. It also doesn't make up for what ended my game time...the game decided to first send me through the world, as in with the bug I described in my review. Then it decided, after that road rage event had ended (the only way I'd continue in a Burnout event if I fell through the world is if I'm not going for a time record or for first place), the game saved my profile (which is nice when you score 30+ takedowns in a road rage), and then it crashed. 

Like I've said, Criterion didn't seem to complete the game. They were close, I think, but then they were probably rushed to get the game off to the publisher (EA) and thus a few features feel incomplete, and the bugs persist. At least it's far closer to a complete game than some other rushed sequels have been (I'm looking at you, KOTOR 2). At least when the game works correctly, it can be a lot of fun. 

Anyway, I should probably mention, since it's somehow still news, about the PSP 2.0 hack that may soon come our way. I figured since I didn't report on this when it was new (that would be last week), that I missed my chance, but it's now news in the more major of web publications, so I guess it's not dated yet. 

So, with the high security of the 2.0 firmware, it looked like homebrew was done. In fact, ever since 1.51, it looked like homebrew apps were done with the PSP. In fact, it should have been done, since Sony is quite tight on their PSP security. However, you can always leave it to Sony to half-ass something. In this case, by playing with your background image (since 2.0 allows for personalized wallpaper images), you open up a chance to confuse the system. It's almost like the type of thing Microsoft would make tighter security and then make a giant loophole to get around it. 

While no one has quite used it for homebrew apps yet, it should only be a matter of a couple weeks. This is like, in my mind, the memory stick swap that worked on 1.5. While the technique was found pretty quickly, the utilization will probably take another couple of weeks, and the ease of use of something like what swaploit did for memory swaps, will take another couple of weeks after that. However, in the end, we could probably see easy to use 2.0 homebrew apps in only a month. I wouldn't bet on it, but I wouldn't dismiss the possibility. 


Malik (9/28/05)  

Today is the type of day that reaffirms the fact that stupid mistakes and decisions are still plentiful. True, this is obvious, but it's more obvious when you look a little deeper at what is being done right now. 

On one hand, there's Tiger's Gizmondo. This device makes me think of the N-Gage. It may not be a cell phone, but it also is not a competitor and it's not being ran by a big enough company to make gamers even give a crap. When the portable world was solely dominated by Nintendo, this device was being designed. Nintendo is a hard company to break apart when they dominate a sector. Just look at the past; Nomad, Turbo Express,, NeoGeo Pocket, Wonder Swan, Game Gear, Lynx, N-Gage...hell, the list of portables that couldn't get through due to Nintendo is equal to the number of handhelds not from Nintendo, minus one (PSP). 

However, despite this, Tiger went forward. Now, despite how they also have a strong additional level of competition (and nothing says a strong competitor like a company that actually is doing well despite being in Nintendo's playground) from Sony, and how they are losing massive amounts of money, Tiger still wants to bring the Gizmondo to the US...this year...when the PSP and DS are still new (less than a year old, each), Nintendo just released the Micro, and the next wave of major consoles is heading our way with the 360. This is about the single worst time for a now unknown (Tiger was once well known...when LCD single game portables games were the mid-80's) company to try to stake a part of the gaming market. 

They are losing money right now, and you know what? When the Gizmondo comes to the US later this year, it will still be losing money. In fact, it will be losing more money. It's nice to see that people have the mind to bring more competition to the gaming market, but there are certain things that just shouldn't be done. The most important is to not bring out a handheld that cannot do something amazing that the successful competitors can't do. If the Gizmondo could offer better game play than the GBA, DS, and PSP, with a major line-up of big name games, and for a smaller selling price, then that would be something. However, when no giant names are standing solely behind Tiger, and no amazing proprietary games are coming to it, and the price blends in with the Nintendo offerings...well, it's easy to see a train-wreck in the works. I just hope more people are smart about this decision than they were with the N-Gage. I other words, gamers, stay away from this thing unless you want to join Tiger in throwing your money away. 

It's a sad truth, but the gaming market is owned by Sony and Nintendo. The only reason Microsoft was able to join their ranks is that Microsoft was strong in the PC game market (if you're playing a PC game, it's probably running on Windows), and they had the money to throw away getting loyal customers from their first offering. Unless someone else with these types of resources wants to jump in, the gaming market is set in stone (at least until someone makes a major mistake and we're down to two companies leading the way). 

The other good example of stupidity in the technology/gaming market could be found in the intensifying battle of what was Blu-ray versus HD-DVD...and is now another Sony versus Microsoft deal. Yup, Microsoft has finally made their choice, and they went with HD-DVD. This won't mean too much for now, but it will become really dumb when both technologies are out, and one side ends up defeated. Considering how most consumers are getting tired of throwing away money on new technology that does the same old job (like getting a new DVD player to play the same movies that they had to replace a few years back when VHS went down). When this is coupled with the fact that consumers are not wanting to buy into a concept that may be dead in a year, it is a sure sign that the first year of the next-gen DVD battles will be a crappy one for all companies involved. 

While Blu-ray will have some ensured sales, just by being the DVD drive of choice on the PS3, it will still be a lame battle. While the Blu-ray insurance of the PS3 may sound like a major leg up, it is nullified by how a HD-DVD player should be able to also play standard DVDs and how one side of a HD-DVD could also be DVD formatted. So, it's turning into a battle of how many big names can get associated with each format...which is how it's now becoming a Microsoft versus Sony deal. 

In the end, both sides will lose. At least for the first year. Few customers will buy into either technology. Until there is some assurance of which one will be worth investing in to, the old DVD technology will remain on top. It's just too bad that when Toshiba and Sony met to form some sort of truce earlier this year, that neither side came out making a's even more of a shame that it sounded like this happened since Sony, as usual, was unwilling to make any concessions. 

I just hope, like with Gizmondo, that no one is dumb enough to play the DVD lottery when the technologies come out to the masses. One side WILL fail. Since there's no clear way to determine who it will be, the best move for consumers is to just save their money. Unlike DIVX versus DVD (back in the later 90's), when DIVX was known to be doomed (and people still wasted their money on that damned box), this is a neutral battle. Neither side is set up to be the failure, so it's safest for all consumers to just avoid the whole mess until the smoke clears. Also, maybe it could help to send a message to Sony (mainly Sony) and Toshiba that they should have worked a little harder on that truce and not just tried to f#$% with the consumers. 

Personally, I have to go with HD-DVD in this one...I just felt like I needed to say that. On one hand, Sony has a reputation of making substandard technology (PS2 DREs anyone?), and they don't know about what an average consumer's budget looks like ("the PS3 will be expensive" said Sony). I can't find myself cheering for a company like that. At least Toshiba has done pretty well with it's ventures (and they make a damned nice the one in my living room...unlike the broken DRE-plagued PS2 that sits on the floor in the same room). Also, the idea of a hybrid DVD/HD-DVD disk that I could, in theory, play on my fancy (and lower priced) HD-DVD player, but still loan out to a friend who doesn't have a new player...well, that type of technology always makes me feel a little giddy. 


Malik (9/29/05)  

In the past, sometime around 1997, if I heard that new Castlevania games were on their way, I would've been unable to contain my excitement. I still can feel that same way about handheld Castlevanias (I really hope that Konami realizes that the PSP would be the absolutely perfect vessel for a new 2D Castlevania to claim the title of champion from SotN). This is solely because they are toned down clones of SotN. However, when I hear of new Castlevania games coming to consoles...well, I think of how they will be 3D...then I think of how each and every 3D Castlevania game has been. I'm not just talking N64, since PS2 did this too. 3D and Castlevania go together as well as Nintendo and Third Party. In other words, Konami, please, STOP! 

By the way, if Capcom is any indication, the special 20th year anniversary deal that Castlevania will have next year will most likely be some sort of anthology collection. Meanwhile, if they wanted to wow us gamers, my advice would be a reworking of Castlevanias 1-3, Dracula X, and SotN, all using the SotN style of game engine. Now that would be hella sweet. However, in reality, it will just be some lame anthology set and some Japanese party for the series. 

On the note of things coming next year, the Sony showing at TGS seems to have been little more than the Japanese version of their E3 showing...or maybe I should say their lack of showing. So far, despite how Microsoft has a solid pricing and release plan, and how Nintendo has enough sense to give a price range of sorts (when Iwata was interviewed on G4, he did say it would be cheap enough to entice non-gamers, which is actually saying a lot), but Sony only says "expensive". While being cheap enough for non-gamers is a pretty small range, "expensive" still leaves questions of if it will be 3D0 expensive, NeoGeo expensive, 360 Bundle package at Gamestop expensive...hell, if Sony could give us anything new during the TGS, it would've been cool. Even Nintendo revealed their Revolution controller, despite how they usually avoid anything major (if not anything at all) dealing with the TGS. 

Last of all for today, I just feel like I have to voice my outrage. It's been 10 years since the last new (and I mean completely original plot) Lunar title came out. So, this month, or later if your local stores don't care about it, we are getting Lunar Dragon Song...maybe it's a DS game, with that obviously non-Lunar name that abbreviates to DS. Well, after reading the Gamespot review, I just have to wonder why so many awesome RPG series of the past have to suffer at the hands of the current generation of game developers...who obviously know nothing of Lunar, Lufia, Breath of Fire (Dragon Quarter my ass), or so many other classic games. It's about time that some of these games that are so well loved and remembered by my generation are developed in a way that truly shows that the technology may have changed over the years, but the game is still as sharp as ever. 

In fact, the most important fact of this is that the developers of these "sequels" for classic franchises need to see that change is not always a good thing. How did Lunar become a game in which the party has no real magic usage, the hero has no special abilities, and the battle party consists of three people only who must decide between fighting for items or fighting for experience? Or how did Lufia become a game of slow battles and pointless characters? Best of all, how did it get decided that Lunar and Lufia, which both once shined as some of the best looking console RPGs, needed to be portable games? Imagine if both of these franchises were properly resurrected for a system like the PS3, 360, or even the Revolution...that would be hella sweet. Instead, we get portable games, which usually end up (when a portable RPG is made from a console only franchise) as nothing short of a rushed and bastardized version of the original. In fact, it seems that most developers have seen the light, that a portable game costs less in money and time, so it becomes, usually, an excuse to be sloppy. 

I just hate it when I know that someone is half-assing something as vital as the first fantasy based RPG for the DS, or just molesting a classic series until no one wants to see it ever again. 

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