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Malik (10/8/07)

I never shy away from admitting when I'm wrong. So, I'll happily (or regretfully) say that I was wrong when I said in the last week or so that Microsoft and Bungie would not split and go their separate ways. Well, it looks like Bungie is now on their own. They still have their publishing agreement with Microsoft, but now longer will Microsoft run the show.

Microsoft does retain a minority ownership in Bungie, but no longer do they run the whole show. This might be interesting since it will give some additional freedom to Bungie. If Microsoft plays their cards right (and doesn't prove to be a bad third party publisher for Bungie's products), this could just mean more potential for both companies to flourish. However, if Microsoft becomes petty and small minded about things, then Bungie will do great while Microsoft will take a hit (which they can easily put up with) in the old profit department.

Hopefully this will mean that Bungie can focus on some new material and not be forever doomed to being "that Halo company". Afterall, they did well with Marathon, and maybe it's time to see another new license/franchise under their belt.

On a different note, this weekend sucked. I started with about eight hours of work on Saturday. Since I work a standard Monday through Friday schedule, and since I pulled some overtime on Friday, this made for a short weekend. When you add in that I am on salary (no overtime pay), it leads to a great way to start a weekend on the wrong foot.

I did get done in time to watch the Pac-Man vs. Bararra fight on PPV with some friends. It should have been a fun fight, but instead there was just too much strategy for a lightweight battle of revenge with a title on the line. In other words, the fight lasted a full 12 rounds and went to a decision. Pac-Man didn't even through half as many punches as he through in the first battle between these two legendary fighters (and that match only lasted into the 11th round).

Sunday only made things worse. On one hand, my thermostat started to freak out. In the end, it was easy enough to fix...but it still devoured about two hours of my time.

However, the true cap for how bad this weekend was is how the Seahawks were shut out for the first time in about 115 games. The game started alright. Afterall, the first half was a true battle of defensive powers. True, Hasselbeck gave up a sloppy interception to end the first half, but the score was still only 0-7. That's not fatal or all that bad for a team that usually becomes far more powerful in the second half.

However, the interception must have, in combination with half time, destroyed all of the Seahawk's players mentality or some shit. Since it was the second half when Pittsburgh ran all over the Seahawks. Long runs were given up. First downs rained upon the Steelers like the rain fell in Seattle. Touchdowns came for the Steelers and yards never came in for the Seahawks. It was a brutal and ugly match. To round it out, when Branch was removed with a sprained foot, the day was completely thrown away.

I'll try to be optimistic. Afterall, the Steelers entered the game with the same 3-1 record as Seattle. Also, with D. J. Hacket out, and now with Branch injured, Seattle was playing a passing game (since Alexander can't run for shit while his left wrist is banged up and broken) without all of the receivers who can make the important catches. Next week is another week and another game.

However, if this trend keeps up of winning one or two and losing one, then the post season is going to be a long shot dream for a team that, on paper, looked like a strong contender going into their first game of the season. I guess the main challenge for now is to hope for San Francisco and Arizona to start seeing some injuries. Afterall, the Rams are a joke this season (as for Arizona...on paper at least).

This season is just not going how one would expect. Maybe it's injuries, but I think there's also some coaching issues. Holmgren is a great coach, but he has some definite weaknesses. For example, against Arizona (in the first Seattle loss of the season), he ended the game with three timeouts and one second to start his final possession...why not call some defensive timeouts when Arizona was running down the clock on their final possession? That could have given the Seahawks about a minute to a minute and a half on their final possession (easily enough time to time the game and force overtime on a field goal).

As for yesterday...the game was lost early on. So, when Hasselbeck was pulled for Wallace, why not go another route? Give Frye (the third string QB) a chance to show what he has. We has been with the Seahawks since right after week one ended, and he was starting for the Browns in week one. Maybe he could have handled the passing and let Wallace enter as a receiver. Maybe we could have at least ended things without being shut out for the second time this decade. It could have also maybe opened up the possibility of seeing if Frye could replace Wallace as the second QB and give a chance to fill in our dying receivers with a man who knows how to catch and run (Wallace).

Anyway, the game was horrible, the Seahawks fell apart in the second half, and there is simply nothing left to do but move on and hope for a solid showing from this point on. If we start to get back into the groove, and stop getting injured (Pearman, Hacket, Alexander, Branch...too long of a list of starters are injured or playing injured), maybe we can see a good season and a good record despite one shitty start.


Malik (10/9/07)

If the rumors are true, there will soon be a 40GB PS3 selling at $400. That would be a first time for Sony this generation. They are actually making a smarter decision about their console that just can't gather any momentum.

However, this is not going to save the console. Yes, the 40GB selling for $400 is a way to offer a price point for a complete system that can compete with the 360. Afterall, the 360, with a HDD, comes in at the same general $400 range. However, this is not enough of a bandage to correct what has happened so far with the current generation.

People have turned away from Sony. Originally, the price played a key factor. However, when the price failed to impress gamers, then the developers moved away from Sony (as seen with many previously PS3 exclusives went to the 360 or cross platform). This created a vacuum of disappointing games and too little quality content to warrant (in many gamers' minds) the price. So, when the price finally drops to a more understandable range, it will not bring on the gamers. We still have the issue at hand of no quality third party support. The price can jump all over, but in the end, for the console to be anything more than a Blu-ray movie player to most consumers, it will need content to back it up.

However, more than how this bandage doesn't serve any real purpose in the fight to save a dying patient, it does leave me wondering and thinking about something...

When have we ever seen a console more redesigned and reinvented in the first year of it's life than we did with the PS3? The simple answer is that we never have. This is an unprecedented situation. The PS3 came out in a 20 and a 60GB version a year ago. The 20 was quickly laid to rest and forgotten about since it was seen by too many people as the inferior product. So, then the 60 was dropped in price (but not enough so) as a larger version came along to become the premium model. Then the 60 started to become harder to find and became more of a joke as the one time premium model was dubbed the new inferior product. This also angered the poor saps who purchased it last November and thought they were getting a quality machine.

Now the 60 GB is vanishing from the UK. More than that, each time a version of the PS3 is being laid to sleep, it first gets a price cut. This is not an incentive to jump on the discounted price, since you can bet that soon after the console (at least in that format) will be obsolete and removed from the public.

This yo-yo effect of Sony trying to save their number one position in the past two generations is not going to help them. Afterall, why buy a PS3 today, when there are no good games worthy of a purchase of a PS3 over a 360 and the price is high? Especially when I could always wait about four months and see the price drop again as a larger HDD comes along, and maybe wait for dual-shock (rumble) controllers. Then, once that happens in the spring, there will probably be rumors of an even larger HDD or a better price new feature. Then I could wait four more months, by which time there will still not be enough content to make the PS3 a worthy investment, and find the newest stuff being discounted (before being discontinued) for a better deal. Of course, I will not want the discounted hardware since it's being phased out (and who wants to buy something that's supposed to be new, but is really being eliminated?), so I'll eye the new version. But, I know I could wait four more months to get it at a better price.

It is a never ending cycle. Well, it's never ending right now, but Sony needs to end it. The original PS3 models that came to the UK (only about 6 months ago) are both on their way out. If a console and it's hardware are not worthy of being sold for six months before being discontinued, then it's definitely not worth the investment by myself. So, instead of jerking around customers and potential customers, maybe Sony should try playing it cool, giving a good deal (maybe make some game bundles that run at the same price as the base consoles...same hardware, but with content), maybe a minor price cut (but nothing that looks like a clearance sale), and trying to woo some of the third party developers into giving Sony a little consideration. In order to win over customers, Sony cannot come on too strongly, and in order to seal the deal, they will have to win over the developers. Afterall, it's the games, not that hardware, that ultimately matter (with only a few the Virtual Boy).

To shift gears...As if I was not done feeling bad about the weekend and being disappointed with the Seahawks and how they bombed on Sunday, the news gets worse. Mack Strong, the longest tenured current Seahawk player (second most games for any Seahawk ever), and one hell of a consistent and amazing full back is done playing. He injured his neck on Sunday, which went fairly unnoticed by me during the game since everyone was being substituted out for back up players (to limit injury to the supposed stars). It looked like a season ending injury, so Strong is packing it in and moving on to greener pastures.

Considering how Morris and Alexander cannot run worth a damn right now (both playing injured and Alexander is obviously shaken to his core), losing their front man and guard is going to only make the running game even more sad and pathetic. Hopefully things round out, but it's looking like the Seahawks are shutting down shop and should be making some plans in the off season for some major restructuring. Maybe it's time to see what Frye can really do (as a backup QB) so that Seneca Wallace can do a little running...because that man can run like the wind. At least he could when he could pass worth a damn as the QB when Hasselbeck was injured last year.


Malik (10/10/07)

After more than a week of owning it, I'm still playing Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. I am also actually, to a small extent, enjoying the game. Well, it's not as much that I'm enjoying it as much as it's filling the void I have for a quick and easy diversion.

On that note, one of my largest issues with this game is that it is an easy diversion. I have only died once, and it was due to my hand blocking part of the screen as an easy enemy shot hit me while low on hearts at the start of the game (when you have only three heart containers). Beyond that, I have never had any use for the medicine bottles (which restore health) nor have I had any moment when I feared that I would see the game over screen. Even bosses, which should be a challenge by simply being a boss, are offering absolutely no challenge.

However, the one thing I'm really seeing is that touch screen controls are not needed in this game. I can see using only touch if a game needs it, since it's hard to flip between using the d-pad and buttons then to stylus on the fly during an action scene. However, there are only a few real uses of the touch screen that the d-pad could not replicate.

There is plotting course with your ship. However, when you plot the course, the game's action is stopped. So, this would be a good time to switch control methods without having to worry about the flow of the game being interrupted. Even if you want to keep the annoying sea based enemy encounters (which you handle with a tap of the stylus to fire your cannons at a target), you could still keep the stylus restricted to the boat sections (which would not have caused me nearly as much aggravation).

Another time when it's useful, but definitely not needed, is when your using you map to take notes of puzzle solutions and areas of interest. This is not hard to handle with an alternating control since the map screen does pause the action. Also, this is not even really needed since this feature only replicates the time tested method of using pencil and paper.

The last real use for the touch screen, and the only one that occurs during the regular action of the game as you control Link is the boomerang. However, while this is stylus controlled since it's needed, I have an alternate idea for how the game handled this. My idea is simply; the boomerang is a crutch used by the developers. It's as simple as that.

In the past Zelda games, up until Twilight Princess, the boomerang was simply an item that could go long range to hit switches, grab loose items (and keys), and stun some enemies. So, why is it now that Link needs to boomerang like an addict needs another hit of heroine? Link is honestly addicted to the boomerang...or is it that the developers are hooked? The boomerang is no longer the boomerang we all knew for several decades. The boomerang is now the one-size-fits-all cure for nearly 3/4 of the games puzzles. It's obsessive and annoying.

Instead of forcing so much boomerang, how about the puzzles get a very slight tweak (most would be tweaked with a little placement of targets) to make it so that boomerang could be handled with d-pad and buttons? It would work. Anyone who argues differently and has played the game is simply not accepting that the stylus is almost forced just because of one item (boomerang).

As for the other stylus important items, like the hook shot (now a grappling hook) and the bomb-chus (remote controlled bombs that move like mice)...they don't need the stylus either. The bomb-chu routes could be handled with d-pad usage just like the stylus does for them. The game does pause when you prepare a bomb-chu, so this does not need stylus control to keep the game's action fluid. The grappling hook can also be adjusted (or should I say the grappling targets could be slightly moved in some rare cases?) to work with the d-pad. Very rarely do you need a grappling target that is not, literally, a direction not found on the d-pad.

For those who've played the game, you might be asking yourself a few questions (or pointing fingers at my hatred of this as a sign of my ignorance). How would we set up a tight rope (one use of the grappling hook)? By lining up two targets and firing across both at once. How would you lay bombs with precision? The same way we've done since you could first pick up bombs in Link to the Past (buttons and d-pad). With a few simple considerations and the slight movement of certain targets (be they targets for the boomerang, bow, bombs, grappling hook, or whatever), the game would work 100% with the d-pad and buttons. The stylus was only forced on us because the developers placed items just off of the either d-pad friendly directions and because they have an unnatural and insane desire to force the boomerang on us for everything.

In fact, the boomerang use is so tedious and overly used that I will usually clear out all enemies in a room and immediately select the boomerang as my current tool. Why? Because I know I'll be using it very soon. You use it more in a dungeon than the tool you find in said dungeon (despite past Zelda conventions of making the newest tool the one you learn to use through puzzle uses). You could even use the boomerang similar to how we use it with the stylus with one change;

Make it a d-pad and button thing, but have this minor addition. If you continue to hold down the boomerang button after you fire it, you retain control of it instead of controlling Link. Once you let go, you can go back to controlling Link as the boomerang finishes it's business unaided. Simple enough?

Anyway, I don't say this all as someone who's just a few dungeons into the game (obvious by me talking about the grappling hook and bomb-chus with a familiar tone). I'm one dungeon, and one more annoying play through of the Ocean King Temple (the overly repeated dungeon that you play through about 6 or 7 times), away from laying this game to rest. Unlike those people who say the stylus has reinvented the genre, I can still see the forest for the trees. I can still remember what it was like to find maps to dungeons (not automatically start with them), control Link without blocking some of my screen from view, using the boomerang as a simple tool and not a miracle item, and allowing the game to showcase a grand adventure and not as a tech demo of stylus usage.

The game is fun. I won't deny it. However, I imagine I would have more fun with a control scheme that did not leave some obvious room for annoyances. Especially annoying is anytime a puzzle requires specific drawings. I have the hand of an artist...a dead artist. I cannot draw a straight line for shit. I am not alone in this. Having to draw specific symbols at different points in the game (and I dread the final boss since I've heard drawing is important) is not a good idea. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrows tried this, and it was the only Castlevania game that I got to the final boss of and quit in disgust (the game did not like my attempts to seal the boss with a specific symbol...even after the 45th time in a row).

The DS has some cool potential, even some untapped after all these years of being on the market. However, the DS has some of it's potential in not using the touch screen or making it entirely optional. Move a few posts, targets, crystals, and switches just a few squares, and Zelda could have been the ideal game to offer two control schemes and allow the gamer to either use the tested method (d-pad) or to experiment (stylus). Less force of a control scheme would allow more people to accept it on their own terms. Plus, while the DS does have touch abilities, it is also the best and most supported portable system on the market (ok...the most supported and best selling system out there...portable or not). Use some innovation, but also allow for some room to enjoy gaming without forcing unneeded change.

With a few small changes, that would never have been noticed, the stylus in Zelda (except when on the ship) would have been an unneeded change. Of course, removing the boat would have also been cool and just allow some fast travel (and maybe a cut scene to introduce the ocean boss battles without having to constantly bore oneself with the boat travel's better than Wind Waker, but not by much).


Malik (10/11/07)

Time for some Smash Brawl news. It's good when news comes out that I can actually care about. It's even better when it's good news...but I don't quite see things that way with what has been announced and hinted at.

First of all, it's looking like SSBB is being delayed. True, there's been no official word of a delay in the US, but since the Japanese version is now being dated for the end of January (2008) and the US version is now listed as TBD, it's not looking like Brawl will see the light of the holiday season.

On the bright side, there are a lot of games coming out between now and the original December release date for Brawl. So, it's not like we'll bee lacking games despite this possible delay. Between Nintendo giving us Mario Sunshine, and other companies giving us titles like Rock Band, Mass Effect, and too many other games to name, there will be plenty to keep one entertained on both the single player side of things (which looks pretty cool in Brawl) and the obvious multiplayer/party side of things.

Still, it's sad to see this game get pushed back to a time (potentially January or February) when usually only the worst of games come along. It's not like that's bad for us gamers, since we will probably not have much else at the start of 2008 to keep us going, but it will not help the sales of the game, which can always benefit from a holiday rush.

The other news on Brawl that has me worried is the newest challenger. Yes, Sonic is now in the game and it's official. I understand bringing in outsiders, as in non-Nintendo characters, to some extent. However, I still feel there are enough Nintendo characters (and Nintendo exclusive third party characters) to keep the game interesting. For example, Captain Olimar from Pikmin could be brought in with some fun effects. There's also a whole assortment of untapped Fire Emblem potential, including the characters who focus less on swords (hint, hint Nintendo...). There is just so much un-tapped potential that seems to be ignored in favor of the outsiders.

However, I especially feel Sonic is a poor fit. Yes, there is the pseudo-incestuous feel of Sega and Nintendo being on the same game. However, I am thinking more of what the characters can do. For example, Solid Snake can at least handle both sides of what's expected in a Smash game. He can attack with melee moves and he has a nice arsenal of firepower for ranged attacks. The same can be seen of any Smash character, with a few being slightly tweaked to "fix" the system.

Sonic, however, has only one move. It's all he'll ever have. Yes, he did have fire, electricity, and water shields in Sonic 3 (the best Sonic game), but I don't see those appearing in Smash...especially since the move list, so far, for Sonic is very basic and sad. Yes, he can spin dash. Yes he can...umm...spin dash and charge it. Hell, his recovery move (up+B) isn't even's his environment. Making a spring is not Sonics's Sega's level designer's power. Maybe if the move list allowed for some Sonic based shields from Sonic 3, it would be different...but with spin dash and charging spin dash, and making shit out of the just feels out of place and limited.

Of course, there's one reason Nintendo is now seeing Sonic in their precious game. It's to make the fans happy. Ever since Smash Melee was announced, rumors started to fly that Sonic would make an appearance. There were fake secret methods of unlocking him in Melee. There were rumors of how Sonic should appear in any sequels to melee. There was a lot of hype, and now that Nintendo and Sega are as close as can be (which will always feel incestuous to an old school gamer who relives fond memories of the SNES/Genesis days) the hype can be fulfilled for the fans. I just wish that other Sega people would have been considered first (like Wren from the Phantasy Star series, one of the Gunstar Heroes, an Altered Beast which could play like Shiek/Zelda from Melee with transformations, a Shining Force hero to battle Ike, or any of a dozen other potential Sega mascots).

At least it's not like the whole game is being changed. Afterall, if one character doesn't suit me, I'll have dozens of others to chose from. If I really hate the character, I could always just remove it from any computer matches I play or single it out as a target for all of my aggressions. Too bad the release date could not be fought against so easily.

More than anything, I hope the lame voice and the bad music of the video clips on those links are not in the real game.  I had enough of a bad time trying to tolerate that shit when Sonic was good (especially in Sonic CD).


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