Non-Flash Links At Bottom Of Page

Malik (10/1/07)

Before I start what I want to get in to, I feel like addressing one thing;

Rock Band is now announced with a formal data and a formal price. The price is about $30 less than originally anticipated with a new cost of $170. The 360 version will include wired instruments, which is a little weak, but that's how Microsoft handles their wireless controller technology. However, it's now safe to say that the game will come, out of the box, ready for three players with drums, mic, and a single guitar. Since the GH controller is supposed to be pretty compatible, despite having half the buttons for frets, this should not be much of a problem...unless you want to rock out the solos with two players. Plus, that 360 version includes a USB hub, which makes up somewhat for the Microsoft idea of hording wireless.

However, while the price seems good, the date sounds nothing short of insane. Instead of Rock Band coming along on the first Tuesday of November (long rumored to be the release date), it's now coming out on the 23rd. A Friday. Not bad until you think about which Friday. Yes...Black Friday...the most horrible day to leave your home and make any purchases. This will probably be one of the few times that pre-ordering at Gamestop (usually pretty sane on Black Friday, for locations not within actual malls) or ordering online will be the best option. To try to pick up this game at a place like Best Buy or Fry's would be nothing short of pure insanity.

Personally, I'd take the original guess of $200 if it meant getting the game on a day before Thanksgiving. Personally, I'd rather avoid all shopping (besides for groceries) once Thanksgiving has rolled along and until New Years is behind us.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about was what happened at 1PM (PST) yesterday. I'm talking about the Seahawks finally showing that they can be contenders for the NFC West. Not only that, but that both the offense and defense can be active in the same quarter.

True, it probably helped that San Francisco lost their QB early on (with one hell of a sweet attack by Rocky Bernard...I recorded the play on my DVR and stopped the recording just after that just so I can watch it a few dozen times). However, that's how the game is played. If you don't make sure that your line can stop a 300+ pound defensive sacking machine from cutting lose on your QB, then you better be prepared for the giant to climb on top of your QB like he's a mountain climber eyeing Mt. Everest. You also should expect the obvious of what happens when the mountain and the climber trade rolls...the mountain will crush the poor little climber like a freakin' beer can.

Beyond Rocky taking care of business early on, the game only got better from there. Hasselbeck was making every pass for quite a while (I stopped counting when he was 7 for 7), Julian Peterson was dominating the offense, and the Seahawks made sure that the only yards to appear and first downs to be obtained were for themselves.

If the Seahawks can play like this on every game for the rest of the season, and actually show they are there to win it all, then things might get really interesting really fast. It also helps with bringing some momentum when the Seahawks take down their main current rival (the Rams no longer count since they have forgotten how to play this season). If they can do the same in their first rematch with the Steelers since Superbowl XL, then the momentum will be one hell of a hard thing to stop.

I'm also glad to see that the Seahawks are finally recognizing that they do have a real QB in the third position. This has allowed for Seneca Wallace to finally see the field some more in some interesting trick plays. True, some don't come to produce anything, but most of them (especially when Wallace is not passing the ball, but is instead taking the ball himself) are almost guaranteed to produce a first down and some major yards.

The few times Wallace sees on the field action make me remember why I can't help but feel a bit sorry for him. He is probably one of the most talented players on the squad, but he's also one of the most important to keep safe. So, while he could be gaining some awesome stats if he was a standard receiver or rusher, he is instead stuck being a rare utility player that will be neglected by the history books. I wouldn't want to see him put out into harm's way each day, since it's a thin line between injured QB and injured backup and being healthy in case an emergency shows up...but it would be damned nice if the Seahawks could have two Wallaces; one in reserve and one running the field.

One last bit of game stuff before I call it a day with this post; the Blue Dragon downloads for Hard and Impossible difficulties, as well as for the Game Plus (New Game+, as us old school gamers know it) have finally come to the US Marketplace. About freakin' time. It should have been there from day one, instead of making gamers be...errr...creative. Making a Hong Kong gamertag and downloading from the HK Marketplace for the first month of the game's life is silly no matter how you see it.


Malik (10/3/07)

I was in too much of a bad mood to even consider posting yesterday. Well, I did think about it, but the end result looked too much like the ramblings of someone who had not only lost his mind, but also lost his ability to ever reclaim his sanity.

On to geek stuff, I have one question; Am I the only person who no longer give a crap about the Blu-ray HD-DVD battle? I think I must be since the battle lines keep being redrawn every couple of weeks and there's also news of another company claiming their side will have an inevitable victory in the coming months. Here's the simple fact; with how the lines keep being changed on who supports what, it's safe to say that HD-DVD and Blu-ray will both be in the same state of limbo come 2008.

While Blu-ray has the PS3 to carry it's standard into battle, the PS3 just didn't deliver enough for gamers. Therefore the PS3 is suffering in sales and the Blu-ray standard is not being waved with the fierceness Sony claimed would happen. On the other hand, while HD-DVD was once the more ignored of the formats, it's still alive and well as new companies (both retail and studios) keep jumping off the Blu-ray bandwagon. When HD-DVD can claim Wal-Mart, Pixar, and other major companies with major recognition, it's pretty obvious that the battle will never least not for a long enough time for a possible replacement technology to come along.

Personally, I don't see myself ever joining either of these teams as things currently stand. Well, at least not for movies. I have too large of a DVD collection and too many players to even consider replacing my technology until the price points change completely. Maybe I'd consider a HD-DVD drive for a PC if they become cheap and become standard...or the same could be said for Blu-ray (but with Microsoft on the HD-DVD side of things, it's more likely HD-DVD would become the next PC friendly media). However, I'll stick with my DVD players, my DVD movies for tangible media and other sources (like Cable, etc.) for my digitally distributed HD movies.

Yesterday Zelda (DS) was readily available. I did pick it up. Considering how Zelda/Nintendo have no let me down before, it would be stupid to ignore a new Zelda title...even if the control scheme is not one I would normally approve of. Seriously, I have yet to see a game that uses primarily the stylus on the DS that is actually well planned and not just a gimmicky piece of shit that would have had more potential on a normal control scheme.

That said, I have not played Zelda yet. I bought it, but I wanted to get in some more Rune Factory last night. I aimed to play a little, but since my house was upgraded (in the game) I can now forge my own weapons, shields, and accessories. So, I ended up playing way more than I intended as I became determined to raise my forging and decoration (skill for making accessories...strange name for such a skill...) ranks so I can make some awesome stuff with my collection of ores (materials needed to make stuff).

I also proceeded to get married (in RF) and clear out the mountainous level. Sadly, this may be where I put the game on hold for a while to play Zelda. It's not that Rune Factory is a game I want to stop without completing...but I'm in the middle of Summer (in game) and my next dungeon is Misty-Bloom Cave.

For those who don't know the game (and it's worth checking out), the game uses a season system of months. Each month has 30 days, and there are four months per year (spring, summer, fall, winter). Each day has a certain amount of time (one real world second is equal to one in game minute). You can sleep to end a day whenever you want, but then you miss out on potentially mining new ores, finding new secrets, and interacting with people in the town.

No my problem is that Misty-Bloom can only be entered in the winter. This means I have about 45 days to play before I can enter another dungeon and continue with the main story. So far, I have put somewhere around 25-30 hours into the game, and it started at the start of spring. So, by the time I reach the next dungeon, I'll have advanced the colander the same amount of days I've already played. I don't feel like just skipping days by sleeping to advance the plot, but I also don't feel like playing another 45 days before I can get anything done.

In other words, I think I'll be putting RF on the backburner as I allow Zelda to show me if the stylus control scheme is a good or bad idea. Of course, Zelda offers it's own particular, I've read you keep having to enter and slightly progress in a special "master dungeon" or main dungeon between each new level. In other words, you have a dungeon that you keep having to repeat floors of. I've done this before in RPGs and adventure games, and it's not my idea of fun. Hopefully, once again, Zelda will take the opportunity to prove me wrong. I really hope so.

One last thought before I go. More news keeps coming out on the Guitar Hero 3 vs. Rock Band front. This time it's more tracks that have been announced for GH3.

Personally, I know I'll get both games, but I am constantly thinking that GH3 will simply be "that game to get me by" until RB comes along a month later. Well, the new track list has me knowing that I'll enjoy that month a little more. True, it'll probably be a half assed cover (please be better than Radar Love's cover of a cover...please...), but seeing something penned by Mike Ness (Social D's "Story of My Life") is damned good news to me. I just hope they don't in the retarded direction of covering a cover of this song, since it has been covered before. While I may enjoy Reel Big Fish, if it turns out to be something like a cover of their cover...well...boss battles and power-ups will not be the only thing to anger me about this game...besides Activision's and Neversoft's creative direction...and the visual changes...and...ok...I think a few of the songs and my need for a new edition of guitar jamming fun on the 360 are my only draws to this game until RB comes along.


Malik (10/4/07)

I am not going to get a lot of love for saying what I'm about to say. Last night, I decided it was time to put down Rune Factory and do some chores. Then I decided "screw being productive" and started Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. I even played enough to get through the first dungeon (as in the first real dungeon...where one would get the boomerang).

I played close to three hours as I tried to collect extra rupies to purchase treasures. I tried to master each type of control presented to you at the start of your journey. I practiced twirling my stylus to make Link do a summersault. I would circle Link to make his do spin attacks until he got sick (literally, he would get too dizzy and would need a break). I kept trying anything I could to get my money worth from this game. I took the time to track down each treasure in the dungeons I saw. I even sailed to places not intended to be my current goal in order to explore the world.

With all of this, I have one strong opinion of the game. In fact, I know my opinion may or may not change as I play, since I'm only three hours into the game. It's easy to form an initial impression of something and see that change with time. Many games (of the RPG or adventure genres) start out boring me and turn out great. I have learned to both love games that I initially hated, and to feel the opposite as the game bore me to tears (Rogue Galaxy comes to mind).

With Zelda: PH, my impression may change, but for now...I HATE THIS GAME WITH A PASSION. I want to like it, and I'm determined to finish the game, if it's in my will power, but I cannot fathom why this game is being heralded as it is.

It's being called silly and dumb by those who don't play it (because of the stylus only control scheme) and awesome and innovative by those who have played it. Well, I started the opposite. I thought the stylus only controls, while weird sounding, could be an interesting twist to the Zelda franchise and a new direction/motivation for DS game developers. I was a little worried that I wouldn't like it, but my excitement was far more prevalent.

Having played the game, I now feel like the stylus only scheme is a horrible crime against the Zelda name. The only crime greater (and this one crime is much, much greater) is the shit that was dubbed Zelda on the CD-i.

For one thing, before I even touch the controls, there's an old problem from the Wind Waker days. Namely, the sailing. It's slow and boring as all hell. True, you don't have to change your wind direction with a magical incantation on your baton, but it still doesn't mean the new system (a powered ship) is any better. It takes way too long to get anywhere. I hate to think of when I have the full sea chart and can travel from one corner of the world to an opposite corner. It's slow enough just going to the next island.

The real crime of this game, however, is the controls. For one thing, the controls are not nearly responsive enough. For example, you touch an area on the screen to move in that direction. That's fine. However, to perform a classic Link summersault, you have to draw a circle on the screen on the edge your touching to keep moving. Well, once you get the sword, this is not an easy task. You swing your sword by drawing a line perpendicular to Link. Well, the game likes to take summersaults as sword swings. To bash a tree (to find extra loot and maybe some hearts) can take way too many attempts. It's just not fun taking upwards of twenty attempts to bash a tree because Link is so damned happy and eager to swing his (stolen) sword.

Then there's the fact that swinging a sword is not as fluid as if you just needed to hit a button. You have to draw a line to swing. To thrust, you have to draw a line coming out from Link or radiating in a parallel motion from Link's line of sight, so to speak. In other words, you typically have to stop moving to prepare to draw a sword swinging line.

Beyond all of that, there's a major problem with a game featuring any action on the touch screen that requires touch screen controls. That is how your hand may be blocking upwards of 50% (or even more) of the screen at any given time. Nothing like a simple to defend against enemy striking Link because the hand of the puppeteer that controls him is blocking his vision. This is why I've always had a minor issue with the touch screen. It may work for slower paced games or for puzzle games, but it doesn't work for action.

Most of all, there is not one damned thing the controls give you that could not be done with the normal buttons. Movement? The d-pad. Sword? A face button. Items? Another face button. Even the boomerang, which can be drawn to follow a set path could be done other ways. If you don't believe me, try playing Final Fantasy Adventure (the original...Sword of Mana was a bad remake) and try the ice magic. Now speed that up a little and you have the boomerang. Maybe some puzzles could have you stop the action to use the stylus. However, the puzzles I'm thinking of are pretty having to draw a number on a sign for how many palm trees are on a beach.

There is honestly no reason why the few parts that force stylus use (since Nintendo licenses have to be touch sensitive for some lame ass reasons) cannot be ones that stop the action. For example, drawing on the map is not bad since it lets you take notes of what you may need to know. However, the map screen is paused so why not allow the user to calmly retrieve his/her stylus and do that part on his/her own time.

Maybe I'm alone in thinking like this. Maybe the game is smoother than I think. Then again, if that's the case, I need to stop making cell calls and burning up minutes to talk to voices in my head. When I made a few calls last night to ask people if they had bought the game yet (if not, then they could get my copy for cheap once I finished or was finished with trying). Sadly, all of these (possibly imaginary) people I asked had bought the game. Also, all of these people were not very happy...especially with the damned summersaults.

If this game did something really new and different that could not be handled with the buttons and d-pad, then stylus would have to be the way to go. However, since nearly every important action (and I don't think writing a number on a sign is important when you could just enter it with an old fashioned typing menu) in this game is based on classic button tested methods, there is no reason to force this control scheme. I've seen some good uses of the touch screen in DS games (Mario 64 DS, which offered both control schemes, did great with the touch screen working as the analogue controller), but Zelda is not one of these games. At the very least, they could have done more like Mario 64 DS. Have two different set ups, and for those who hate not being able to bash a tree (which used to be a simply press of the A button on past Zelda games), let them use the buttons for this. True, it would eat up the excessive number of quick menu buttons, but then again, the start and select buttons could then get real uses (as menu buttons).

I will try to enjoy this game and I do hope that my mind changes, but I don't see it happening. I just really hope, if I have the will power to finish this thing, that there is nothing nearly as annoying as the triforce unt from Wind Waker. Wait...oh shit...the Sea King dungeon comes to mind (and how you must keep replaying certain areas repeatedly as you progress through the other dungeons). Shit! I also recall that this game is supposed to have excessive stealth areas (like on Wind Waker).

Blah. At least Wind Waker gave me solid controls that could not make the fun parts intolerable.


Malik (10/5/07)

I played some more Zelda: PH last night. I am really trying to get into this game. For example, I spent some precious time just looking up, online, advice on how to perform a somersault more easily. The good news is that there is a better way than drawing circles and watching Link swing his sword in return. It actually involves making a zig-zag patter while running. It is not perfect (I still get sword play showing up from time to time), but it is better than circles.

I also took some time to understand the world around Link by sailing the seas with no goal in sight. I saw uncharted islands, interesting enemies, adventurers on ships, and golden frogs. In other words, I'm taking my time to get into this game. Afterall, it takes a lot for me to look at a Zelda game unfavorably.

I also played through the required dungeons and towns between killing the boss of the first real dungeon and getting to the boss room of the second dungeon. There's actually a lot in that part of the game. You have towns to explore, caves to discover, secret hidden locations to find, a maze of fog to navigate, and several islands open to your exploration. You also have a lot of back tracking to do. Way too much for one's own enjoyment.

In fact, that's my biggest complaint now with the game. The pace is screwy because you constantly back track. For example, when you first find the fog maze, you get through a lot of it and then are kicked back to the beginning. Then you sail away from the fog, and explore an island. Then you do some stuff (95% spoiler free in this post) and go back to the maze and finally clear it. All so you could just do some more sailing. You are constantly sailing and constantly back tracking. The first partial dungeon in the game is actually a 13 floor monster of a dungeon that you have to replay floors of over and over as you progress in the game.

True, the controls still anger me. It's not as much how they don't properly respond (which is annoying, but the game is easy enough to make this forgivable), but rather how your hand will block half of your view most of the game. It's too easy for an enemy to make a cheap shot attack that, in all honesty, is not a cheap shot. It's only "cheap" because the hand of Link's controller is covering his vision, if you get my meaning.

The back tracking, however, is the annoyance that is almost unforgivable. Since the game focuses on naval travel, like in Wind Waker, there is not much to actually explore. Most of the world map is just a big blank expanse of blue water. Islands are few and far between, and fighting enemies from your boat is annoying and tedious since it just keeps coming. At least land travel in other Zelda games allowed you to explore for heart container pieces and other treasures (like the cloaks and the ice rod in LttP). In fact, PH does not even include heart container pieces. You can find a few whole containers (usually with annoying challenges forced on a sword duel that requires you to make 100+ hits on another sailor without being hit three times by his attack...while your hand covers half the screen), but no other real treasure. Ok...there is "treasure", but it's all stuff you sell for money or parts to decorate your ship (when did Zelda become a decoration game?).

I think, if this was not a Zelda game, it would have been different. I don't mean the setting and story, since the plot is very non-epic and non-Zelda. I mean that the game would have sold less, had more unhappy people (fanboys will defend their Link and Zelda against all logic and criticism) buying it, and it would have been better in my eyes. Part of the problem with this game, on a basic level, is that this is not a good example of how to carry on the Zelda name. This is a decent (not good or bad) adventure game and a half-assed (bad) Zelda game.


For Those Who Don't Have Flash Plug-Ins...

Rested XP    News    Reviews    Videos    Features    Forums    Archives    Search This Site    Links    Contact Us    Disclaimer

Non-Flash Links At Bottom Of Page