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Malik (10/3/05)  

My dangerous work site is without power, so I have the day off.  Doesn't mean much to all of you, except for getting an earlier post, but it sure makes me feel good!

For those who noticed, I didn't get around to posting on Friday.  Normally, unless I'm on vacation, I try to avoid this.  However, Friday was just too busy of a day.  Between having the wonderful oral torture of a dentist appointment, doing a product test for Microsoft (no better way to get a free copy of the $500 Office Pro 2003 suite...BOOYAH!), and then seeing Serenity in the evening, it was just too busy of a day to do much besides travel and do those things.

First of all, however, I feel like making a small mention of Serenity.  I won't spoil anything, since there is a lot in this movie that can be spoiled.  I'll just say the this is one hell of an awesome movie, and it was nothing short of wonderful (for once) to see a movie that I wanted to see so badly that was sold out like mad.  Every show at the local theater was sold out, and despite getting there about half an hour before the show, Velveeta and I still had to wait behind a couple hundred people in line ahead of us.  I'm happy about seeing a movie in which I have to sit in a corner seat since it means there's a better chance that someone will try to get Joss Whedon to make more movies (or...please make it so...a new TV series of Firefly...please...).

The movie itself was nothing short of amazing.  The plot was solid, the action was like the action of Firefly, but with a major budget behind it, and the acting was the same wonderful acting us Firefly fans have come to know and love.  I just wish, in hind-sight, that this had instead been part of the TV series.  There was just too much stuff going on to really feel right in a 2 hour format.  In fact, I think this movie could've easily been the majority of a full season.  At the end, I have only one problem with the movie...that, if a new series is made (please), either some things will have to be undone from the movie, or there will have to be some changes that would not be for the best.  I said I won't spoil anything, so just watch the movie (if you already have, should know what I'm talking about) and you'll understand.

Well, on game news, tomorrow is a great day for handheld owners.  For once the DS is getting great games, and it's several in just a week of time!  In fact, tomorrow is the first time a game is coming out for the DS that actually should make me glad I bought the system.  Yes, I'm talking about Castlevania.  Also, Trauma Center is coming out, for those who like the quirky and more unique of games that are best suited for the DS touch screen.  

To make things even better, the more anticipated of games will continue to pour onto the portables next week with Pheonix Wright: Ace Attorney.  I'm not sure if this is a game I would ever consider buying, but it would definitely be entertaining for a single night that is fueled by massive quantities of booze.

To continue my random subject changes, I just feel like saying enough is enough with the nomenclature (system of naming, for those who don't have taxonomy knowledge) of DS games.  If a game is going to have a secondary title, and many others in the series have secondary titles (Castlevania has "Aria of Sorrow", Symphony of the Night", "Harmony of Dissonance"...Lunar has "Silver Star" and "Eternal Blue"), keep it fluid.  Don't just make some lame secondary title that abbreviates to DS.  Lunar: Dragon Song and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow are just poorly named games to get the DS abbreviation.  Seriously.  These names don't fit in with past titles and just make it look more like developers are trying to be trendy with the "DS" theme.  Sorry, I just had to voice that's been like a mosquito bite that just won't quit itching, and the way for me to scratch is to bitch.

Speaking of bitching...just when we all thought the XBox 360 deals could not get any more silly, Gamestop has gone insane.   The old Omega bundle was stupid enough, but when you add on a 42" Plasma TV from Dell...well, while some would view this as the ultimate bundle for a truly "hardcore" gamer, it's actually about the worst gamer setup I've ever seen.  Not only is this out of the budget of an average hardcore geek, and not only is it pointless to get HD just for a system (which is what bundling an HD-TV with a game system implies), it is the worst type of TV to go with a new game system.  For those who don't follow technology (you disgust me...joking...or am I?), a plasma TV (like the one in this retarded bundle) should only be used for about 1-2 hours a day for the first year.  To go beyond that level of usage is risking damage to the TV, and also on some plasma screens it will void the warrantee.  However, if you go with the 1-2 hours/day rule, it means it will give you only about 42 minutes per week, on average, per week to play each of your 20 games.  Yeah...ummm...I don't think so.  While some people may actually be dumb enough to give in for a brand new plasma screen for their 360, I'll be happy with my good old-fashioned CRT (LCD is also nice) and play until my eyes bleed with no fear of my TV dying before my eyes do.


Malik (10/4/05)  

Bioware has announced an new game for the PC and 360 that looks pretty interesting.  I'm talking about their new Mass Effect property.  I also mean it when I say it "looks" pretty interesting, since a few screen shots are all we really have to go off of on this thing.  This is the game they licensed the Unreal 3 engine for.  So, beyond the fact that it's most likely some hybrid FPS/RPG, and that it takes place in a futuristic looking world that involves some heavy looking fire power, there is nothing to go off of.  I wish there was something else to really go off of, since a few pictures are not actually worth a few thousand words in this case.

Beyond the little blurb about Mass Effect, so far there's been no really exciting news coming out of X'05.  There's been a few updates on the games we'll see in the next couple of months, and there's been some announcements of games that make me shudder in fear (like a new Superman if any superhero needs to be banned from games, this is the one).  It's been pretty lackluster, especially in comparison to how we've been getting some hardcore announcements at previous game conventions this year (like the 360 at E3 and the Revolution controller at TGS).

At least there's some extra news that's not Microsoft related that sounds really sweet.  I'm talking about the news of GTA: Liberty City Stories going multiplayer.  While only three of the supposed six play modes have been revealed, it sounds pretty interesting.  The modes basically come down to death-match, capture the flag (with flags being vehicles), and a pseudo-counter-strike mode in which one side defends four limos from the other team (and then you swap sides to see which team can destroy the cars quickest).  All of this sounds pretty interesting, assuming that the addition of these modes don't take away from development time that could be used for the single player story mode.

My only concerns about the multiplayer GTA comes down to a few minor details.  First off is that the controls, which still sound sketchy with the PSP having two fewer buttons and one fewer analogue-like stick than the PS2, which did GTA so well.  If the controls are solid, than these modes can be fun.  The other issue is that the game only allows six players at a time...which can be pretty weak for team games.  I don't think I'm alone in saying that four on four is about the smallest team size for a GOOD team death-match or capture the flag style of game.

The final issue I have is more of a curiosity.  When the final modes are revealed, will these include the one mode I have been wanting since GTA3.  Will you be able to play with more than one person in the standard game.  Imagine how sweet that would be.  Maybe six people would be a bit ridiculous, but two player co-op would be nothing short of awesome.  Rockstar could make the game where the difficulty gets slightly boosted with a second player, and thus the players can start to use some tactics that have never before been possible in a GTA game.  You can use one person to draw out the enemies while the second player gets into a sniping position, the first player can start an assault and once he gets hurt the second takes over, you can have someone watching your back...there are so many possibilities.  Of course this will probably not be included in the final PSP game, but I still think it would be nothing short of awesome...

Ok, I'm incredibly sick, and am nearing the point of hallucinating.  So, this is where I'll log off.


Malik (10/5/05)  

Well, like I said at the end of my post yesterday, I am sick.  It's pretty interesting since I rarely get a chance to be sick enough to zone out while playing one of my favorite games.  I was playing Lufia 2, and I found a few times that I kept staring at the exact same block of text for over 10 minutes at a time...and then I would wonder what was even going on in the game.

Maybe it's because of how I'm sick and easily distracted, but I think I've seen the best commercial of the year while zoning out to daytime TV.  I don't mean soap opera daytime TV...rather I mean the crap that passes for entertainment on G4 during the day (shows like Judgment Day).  It was an ad for "Dungeons and Dragons For Dummies".  I actually spent about 2 hours last night trying to find a link for this ad online (sadly, no one has it, but many people desire to see it and have a saved copy of it).  This is one of those ads that is so bad that one would think that you'd have to travel back to the 1980's to see it.  I wish I could describe it, but I'll just say that it involves a couple saying how they wished they could be cool enough to play D&D, but they were too confused by d20s and books.  Then a crazy lady on a backdrop of poorly drawn D&D inspired sketches explains how D&D for Dummies could help them.  Maybe it was being sick that did it, but I am completely enthralled by this ad (and I haven't even hit the hardcore cold and flu meds, like Dayquil, yet).

On other news (well, "actual news" may be a better description), Square has finally shown off some details of FF3 (as in the Japanese FF3 that never came to the US...despite being one hell of an awesome game) for the DS.  Apparently, Square is doing more than just making a standard port.  They are even going beyond the slight visual upgrade that FF1 and 2 got in Final Fantasy: Origins (PSX) that made those previously 8-bit games look more 16-bit.  FF3 is going 3D.  While I have yet to see some real visuals, it does mean that FF3 will probably actually be worthy of being a DS title (since we've seen with game like Mario 64 DS that 3D is easily done on the DS).  Also, despite how we had previously heard nothing about this game for almost a year, FF3 DS is obviously no longer worthy of being called vaporware.  Now, if only we could get a release date (or a general idea of when it will come out), that would be sweet.

On the DS side of things, there's also a video available for Xenosaga 1&2 (DS).  As many may be familiar with, I am a Xenogears fanboy (about the only thing I've ever been a fanboy of, as opposed to being just a fan).  Well, things started to change when Xenosaga 2 showed me how a great game can inspire true crap.  Actually, more than anything, XS2 showed that good visuals (and it had some pretty visuals) can be used too easily to over-compensate for a lack of game play.  Well, I have to say that the DS version of the Xenosaga franchise has me intrigued...why?  Well, if Xenosaga 2 was so bad, maybe with having a lack of quality visuals to fall back on, the game play might have to be improved.  Well, that's my hopeful theory, anyway.  It'll probably just turn out to be more crappy battles with a self-indulgent plot...or at least it'll have good game play (the self-indulgent story seems to be the chosen method of storytelling that Monolith has chosen...bastards).

Last of all (I'm still sick, so I can look at the computer screen too much more), Castlevania DS is out.  Well, I should say it shipped yesterday, and my local EB should have it today.  I think this will be, for me, the first must have game of the DS.  It's about time that I stop feeling like my DS was a giant money drain.  If I could get into the concept of playing Internet puzzle games and paying $30-$40 for them, I'd be in heaven with the DS...but I have some sense of self-respect and conservation of money.  However, while I am not one to fully get into the Advance Wars craze (which is a good game...just not my type of thing), Castlevania DS should be a sufficient time killer and well worth the money.  I'll post tomorrow about how the game really is, but I think I'll have some good things to say about it.


Malik (10/6/05)  

Nintendo is once again thinking ahead on things. It's good to know that no matter how poorly conceived some concepts are with Nintendo, they still go on with the full intention of making things work as easily as possible. Case in point, Nintendo is making a USB device that attaches to a PC to allow WiFi DS connections, even if a user only has a wired Internet connection. Too bad that the European price (no American price yet) is in the neighborhood of $50...which is enough to find a wireless router if you have a Fry's or a Best Buy in your neighborhood (or have Internet access to reach Amazon or Best Buy online). Once again, Nintendo has a good idea, but seems to be failing in the execution... 

...and some of my friends wonder how I can be so pessimistic about the Revolution controller. It's simple to be pessimistic. While great potential exists, you still have the fact that the execution will be faulty (like how the DS WiFi adapter is the price of a wireless router, or how there will be too few games that properly use the Revolution controller to do anything beyond mini-games). You could just say that it's the curse of Nintendo. It's, as I like to look at it, the same curse that George Lucas knows too well...Nintendo and Lucas are both great at thinking of great and amazing things, but they both can't achieve their visions alone (and with no third party for Nintendo and no outside director for the original SW trilogy...well, they just never go beyond being great concepts). 

Since I've been quite sick, I was able to get in more time with Castlevania DS than I should normally be able to. So far, I'd have to say I'm almost very impressed. The controls are solid, the use of the top screen is amazing (switching between map and stats on the fly is great when you want to either know how soon you'll level or where you are), the plot is interesting, the visuals are nice (a little unpolished, still...but nice none-the-less), the audio is fact, you could say that this game is perfect for being a must have DS game...if not for two features. 

The first feature is "freeing souls". The instructions don't go into this ability of Yoko (one of the shop keepers...the one who upgrades your current weapons by infusing them with your extra souls you've captured), and the explanation in the game was vague, at best. I have no idea what this does, and I cannot find out online or in the game's instructions. I guess it's probably not a required feature, so I'll let it slide, for now. 

The second feature is the required "force the player to use the touch screen" feature. When you defeat a monster, you will have to immediately draw a symbol on the screen. You will have one chance to draw it correctly (and since you will have just fought a boss, you will not have time to pull out a stylus, so you better be good with drawing on the touch screen with your fingers). If you fail, the boss will come back with less than full (but still enough to hurt you) HP. This is about as lame of a touch screen use as I have ever seen, and it really doesn't belong in this type of game. 

The worst part of this symbol drawing is that you had just fought a boss. This means, if the boss was difficult, your hands will probably be sweaty and your hands may even be shaking (this game can get your adrenaline pumping like few other portables games can). This means you will often times fail and have to fight the boss some more, but with a horrible smear of sweat now running across the screen. I haven't actually failed a boss fight because of this, but I have wasted excessive potions, leading to me having to waste time collecting more money after a fight to replenish my potion stocks. 

At least the second use of the touch screen is pretty fun. The second use lets you break crystal blocks that hinder your progress by simply touching them. This is pretty fun, and it makes you think a little bit since it's rare that the solution to a crystal block room will be as simple as "destroy them all". Usually you will have to keep some as platforms to jump on to, but others will need to be removed to give you a path to take. Plus, since this type of puzzle will not be during a boss fight, you usually don't have to worry about too much sweat blurring your screen. 

I should have a full review of this game sometime early next week (unfortunately, it will have to be sans images, since there's no way to hook my video capture device up to my DS...yet...). I can already give a hint that this game does live up to what I said before; one of the (if not THE) first must have DS games. Simply speaking, this game is better than any of the GBA Castlevania games, and just barely lower down than SotN. 


Malik (10/7/05)  

It's amazing how something as simple as a mod chip can lead to a four year long lawsuit. However, that's just what happened in Australia. Sony decided to take Eddy Stevens to court over how he was Australia's premier mod chip supplier. 

While it's nothing new to see Sony trying to take down someone for something like modifying a Sony console, it is nice to see the judges decision in this case. It's also especially nice to see when you consider how some games just don't come to certain markets until far later than they should (like the European launch of the PSP coming about 9 months after Japan and six months after the US launch), and sometimes they arrive for ridiculous prices compared to other markets. Well, I think this MSNBC article says it as well as I can; 

The High Court ruled that while making a pirated copy of a game is illegal, playing a game using a mod chip is not. 

A lawyer for Stevens, Nathan Mattock, said the ruling would allow Australian consumers to buy lower price versions of games overseas and play them on their Australian-bought PlayStation consoles, provided they have a mod chip installed. 

Sounds about right to me. Now if only the same logic could be applied to the US, or better yet, if the ultimate logic of Sony knocking out region coding would kick in. Personally, I don't have a mod chip (only because I know of other pass-throughs for my imports), but I know I probably would if they were legal and thus I could find a store to install them for me at a non-black-market price. Or better, I wouldn't even need them if only I could get my Japanese titles to work without going through the hassle of attaching random bits of plastic to my PS2 (not that I endorse this company in particular, but they have the best image of what is on the market and a somewhat competitive price). 

Beyond all of that, I just have to say it's nice to see that random image of the PS3 that's included at the top of the MSNBC article. We've seen it before, but it's been a while so I forgot what a potentially $500-$1000 George Foreman grill would look like. If only it could grill me up a steak...yeah... 

All silliness aside (well...that type of silliness...), I went ahead and got We Love Katamari last night. This time I mean I got the American version. It was fun playing the Japanese import, but I needed to know what words of advice the King of All Cosmos had to tell me. Well, I am not disappointed. It's just as good as the Japanese version, sans the co-op helping feature of showing your analogue sticks, but with a language that doesn't leave me running to an FAQ to know what the hell I'm supposed to do in each level. 

I'm still playing Castlevania DS, but I did need some WLK action (it's like a drug with no consequences). I should probably be done with Castlevania pretty soon. In fact, that's my only major complaint about this game (except the drawing of symbols that I mentioned yesterday)'s pretty short. Unlike SotN, which gave an extra castle after you finished the original castle, DS is a little more on the short side. I'm running at about maybe 2 hours before I'm finished with this game. Also, it doesn't help that this one is so much more linear than it needs to be. I won't knock down my impression of the game over that, but I still think Konami needs to look back at the glory days of SotN before they make anymore Castlevania games. 

When a company makes a game as amazing as SotN, and when they decide to duplicate it's style for so many other games in the series (like all the portable Castlevania games found on the GBA and DS), they should go head on and not just half-ass it. In other words, give us more hidden rooms, more special weapon combos, more chances to explore, more fun powers (remember how SotN had a couple pages of artifacts...DS has something like 7, and the collecting of monster souls doesn't make up for that), and more variety in the themes of different sections of the castle. 

In fact, if Konami wants to make one hell of an awesome game for the next portable Castlevania, I have a nice suggestion; make a new game dealing with what happened to Alucard since SotN. Make it a lot like SotN (not a clone, but with the options and features that that game gave us). Then, to make it as hella sweet as possible, make it on the PSP (for better visuals and the wide-screen approach). I would drop $50 on that type of game in an instant. 

Don't get me wrong; Castlevania DS is a great game, I just always have my mind on the future and the future could be so damned amazing. Anyway, it's time for a geek-filled weekend, but expect a Castlevania DS review sometime early next week. 


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