Malik (12/27/04)  

Finally the holidays are mostly over. By that, I mean the family holidays are over, and the silly hanging with people as you get drunk and play games holiday is still upon us. I always like New Years more than Christmas from a fun perspective. I figure any time in which we are (assuming you're over 21...I don't condone, blah, blah...) assumed to get drunk and be silly is a good time in my books. In fact, this year Velveeta is throwing a party that will involve a good assortment of games, drinks, and me with my digital camera (for the required blackmail material, hehe). Anyway, that's a week out still, so let's look at something else... 

I got KOTOR2 from Velveeta, as I was assuming. I don't mind a lack of surprise in my gifts since I tend to be too inquisitive for my own good (which leads to me ruining the surprise on my own). Plus, when the expected is KOTOR2, how the hell could I complain? For those who are late in getting KOTOR2, like I am, I am amazed. Not only am I amazed by how little fanfare KOTOR2 is getting (this game is as much under the radar as the original was on the radar), but also at the vast number of improvements that have been installed since the original came out (only 1.5 years ago). 

I started my game as a sentinel, or whatever the average class is. I figured that being purely offensive is only fun in battles, and being highly force ready is also only good when it comes to battles. I prefer to be a role player (have fun from the plot and exploration), and the sentinel is the only class that gets a good healthy number of skill, not having a major loss to offense (feats) or mental (force powers) worked out nicely. Also, like with KOTOR, I decided to go the route that fits my RP style the best... 

I play RPGs a lot. In RPGs, you almost always play a uber-good hippy who only cares about saving those around him/her. I mean look at any FF game, Xeno games, Dragon Warrior games, and even the brooding Yuri of Shadow Hearts fame...they all help people, even if the hero is supposed to be an anti hero. Hell, Laharl from Disgaea even did this same thing and he was striving to be the ultimately evil Demon Overlord. So, with how often you have to play people with a soft spot, and with how I, ultimately, went good on Fable, I decided the option for KOTOR2 would be simple (like with KOTOR1, in which I saw two friends go light side); Dark side all the way. 

I started with a few easy to find dark side points. It's like KOTOR2 is a little less subtle on dialogue options. If you want to be evil, they throw those dark points your way. I have no problem with that since I'm playing a former Jedi who knows his past and has had dealings with Darth Revan. I mean it's a great concept for the player to have some extra chances for light and dark side points from the start. 

Anyway, the game itself is a lot like the original. That is to say that the visuals are still the same (no complaints here...they looked beautiful last year and they still look great in 2004...hell, I bet they'll look damned pretty in 2005), the controls are the same (they worked great before, so I hoped to see nothing changed...and for this I am thankful), and the environments are somewhat similar (but in the SW universe, the environments have always been limited, so anyone who complains about this is not a SW fan). 

However, there are two major changes. The first one is that you now have more options for your skills. Skills don't just come down to getting around an obstacle, but rather they are involved in more of the exploration, creating items, creating upgrades, and combining normally non-related skills (open a door is security, but opening a broken door may require a little help from using demolitions to acquire a mine and then using demolitions again to blast the door open...that's a cool new use of an old skill). The second change is the creation of items. You use different skills, depending on the item you want to make, to use different components to create anything from mines, to medpacks, to lightsaber parts. 

Plus, the add-on parts for weapons are not limited to three parts anymore. You now have, instead of just one handle to add to a vibroblade, a selection of dozens of handles that can do anything from raise you attack and damage to adding some other abilities to you weapon. Another example is that you can add defense with an armor upgrade of one type, but you could always add elemental resistance instead. The choices become astounding, but not overwhelming. 

Anyway, I aim to have a rather friendly KOTOR2 review up by the end of this week. For those keeping score, this is day one of my official vacation week. I'll also get up a Malik's Bitchings that will look a little towards my complaints on Sony (did I mention my PS2 is still getting worse everyday? It is), not to mention some other complaints. I'm also planning on replacing my PS2 soon, but I need to wait for the local stores to get in their first post-Christmas shipments...which means I'll be far more focused on KOTOR2 than Xenosaga for the next few days, if not longer. Hell, I think K2 may claim all of my free time with how addictive it is already. 


Malik (12/28/04)  

I'm getting in KOTOR2 time as I can.  However, a somewhat unexpected surprise came about this week when an old friend showed up in town.  Combine that with the fact that I had to play ride-bitch (play driver) for a friend coming back to town from his Christmas vacation and my KOTOR2 time has suddenly become a little limited.  Instead of getting in this most addictive of RPGs, I've been going more along the multiplayer route.

Last night, we were planning to play some Smash Bros. Melee, but I came across another surprise...this one was not so pleasant.  My SSBM disk has gone AWOL on me.  Since it's a game that I never loan out, and definitely one I wouldn't sell, this was a definite pain in the ass.  So, we ended up going with Naruto 3.  I've played a lot of 2-player N3, and way too much 1-player, but this was the first time I could get in some 4-player.  I have to say that I'm both happy and unimpressed with how that went.  I mean it was good fun, for a while.  However, between the targeting method (you lock on to one opponent at a time and use the Z button to cycle through people to aim at) being clunky and the broken-ness of certain characters...well, we had fun, but not as much as Smash would give us.  At least, on the bright side, we learned the the dog, who is a joke character, is damned cheap and good in multiplayer.  There is nothing like taking on a hyper ball of fur that you can only hit with down attacks.  There's also nothing like playing with two newbs and two veterans of N3 and watching a newb take everyone to school with the dog on his first time playing the game (which included us not telling anyone the instructions...not that they're hard to pick up).

Anyway, later on in the night, we also played some 4-player Halo 2 (split-screen)...which was my first time playing H2 in about a month and a half, and also my first time playing 4-player on one system.  I've played a lot of Halo in the past on split-screen, and I never had any issues.  In fact I joined a tournament with some friends because of how good the split-screen felt.  I don't know how something that felt as good as Halo multiplayer could ever be screwed up, but Bungee found a way...and with authority.  The multiplayer levels felt like crap, the screen was too hard to see (mainly due to the weapons seeming to grow in size in split-screen...all I could see was the SMG in my hands)...we ended up quitting after only two games due to the crapiness of the whole endeavor.  I think I'll never speak of Halo2 4-player on on TV ever again.  For those who called Halo 2 the be-all-end-all of FPS games for the year...sigh...reports of Halo 2's life were greatly exaggerated.

Anyway, I did eventually get some SSMB time.  Not much, but a couple games.  We had to wait for Meat Shield's triumphant return to his home (where his copy of SSMB was behind locked door).  So, we did get in our ultimate the end.  However, this wasn't until almost 1:30 AM, and that left only a couple of games before we had to call it.

Anyway, I did finally get some more KOTOR2 in this morning.  In fact, besides typing this, I've been playing without a break for far too many hours to count.  Despite some small flaws (mainly technical...load times, lag in loading, etc), this game is the sequel that so many of us were wanting when KOTOR first graced the XBox.  The only real complaint I can think of so far is actually a small one (I won't count the technical issues, since they don't ruin the game...only slow it down); when I started to play KOTOR 2, I decided to pick a portrait that looked a good deal like I actually do in real life (the bearded dude).  So, as I started to fall to the dark side (which was only natural), I came across a minor annoyance.  The bearded dude starts, as his body decays from the dark side, to look a hell of a lot like Santa Claus.  I don't know if this is Obsidian's way of saying that Santa is evil, but it annoys me to think that I'm going to be playing out this game as the jolly fat man (and if I take off my clothes, then I wear a black and red suit, which is close enough to a big red suit for me...).

Anyway, I have more KOTOR 2 is play.  I'm completely addicted to this game, and it will devour my free time...but I can't complain...although Xenosaga might.


Malik (12/29/04)  

There's nothing like celebrating one's birthday with a good old friend...that friend being KOTOR 2.  I've spent the last 5 hours of my birthday devoted to KOTOR 2 and loving every minute.  For those who keep ragging on this great game for it's lack of innovation over the previous title...sigh...these people have no idea what they are talking about.  I mean, when you have so many titles that are sequels this year and so many lack any original content, like Metroid Prime 2 (which only had a new ammo system and constant pain from the environment) or Halo 2 (which only brought about a feeling of sloppiness in the coding), there is not a damned thing wrong with someone doing it right with KOTOR 2.  There are changes, don't get me wrong.  However, the changes are not groundbreaking and don't stand out as boldly as adding ammo to everything.  For example, you now have more control over the development of your characters.  In the original, if you didn't care for everyone being so strongly light-side aligned (well, most people were), you could only hope for a sudden alignment shift in the plot.  However, in K2, with the influence system (in which you build trust in your party through dialogue) you can help to bend people to your thinking.

Also, the newer uses of skills, like using them for item creation, is a work of brilliance.  There's nothing like thinking, "maybe I should take some treat injury so I can make better implants" to help advance the game play.  There may be no huge differences, but the small and subtle steps are what separates a good sequel from an obvious attempt to cater to too many people at once.  If you didn't care for Metroid Prime, you may like MP2 because of the big changes, but you may hate it even more.  Also, with Halo, you may have loved playing multiplayer on the original only to hate the visual changes on the sequel.  With K2...if you loved the original, then you'll like this one even more so, hands down.

Anyway, in K2, today, I decided to take a different approach.  I acted much like I had with Fable.  I grew tired of being evil.  It was easy and fun, in a sadistic way, but I felt like I was cheating myself out of a bigger challenge.  I mean the Jedi are outnumbered and outclassed, but the Sith are rampant.  Also, having a former Jedi master tell me that I'll never amount to any good just got to me.  So, to spite her, I decided to make a sudden shift before it was too late in the plot to do otherwise.  So, I went from about 80% dark-side to about 15% light side without ever leaving the Ebon Hawk.  Plus, I was better able to build influence with my newer party members, which means I can better control their growth.  So, light-side is definitely winning...also, not looking like Santa Clause is a definite bonus...I just don't get why the alignment shift could restore my ravaged looks since the light-side doesn't restore, it only redeems.  Oh well.

Anyway, I aim to play some more today since I'm near my goal of having a light saber.  They really make you work for it in K2, unlike the original, in which they practically threw the saber into your hands.  I'm also going to work some on some much needed Geek-Asylum work (like a column for Friday).  Then, after the working stiffs get off work, I aim to celebrate my b-day with style...maybe.  It all depends on how much K2 claims my free time.


Malik (12/30/04)  

I will keep things on the shorter side today.  I was planning another full post, but I just lost a shit ton of time because of KOTOR 2 and Obsidian's love of not testing for bugs prior to releasing the game.  Basically, I am now at the point in the game when you can duel/spar with one of your party members to increase influence and learn new tell you how little of a spoiler this is; this is about 3/4 of the game (or more).  However, I have been trying to find a solution to my glitch on the net for the last 2 hours as Malik (my avatar) and this character's a hint with what the glitch is; they both ran out of vitality about 115 minutes ago and the fight doesn't end.  I'm thinking I'll have to miss out on some of the game because of this shit, but I'm calling it quits on this problem area...for now.

Anyway, this is far from the only glitch I've hit so far.  There's the old glitch of KOTOR1 in which you tell someone to pick up a mine, but rather than calmly approaching it and disarming it, the character runs on top of it and explodes (pretty funny stuff, but it defeats the concept of the "demolitions" skill.  I mean my soldier type characters are better at this form of demolitions than my demolitions masters.  Another fun bug is the one that crashed the game while saving...thus you get screwed out of what you've accomplished since you last  saved and you have a bad save file wasting hard drive space.  Or, my favorite bug came when I was trying to breakdown some items into components and then the game I tried again and found that my last save file was missing about 600 components.

I'm not really mad at K2...I'm just a bit disappointed in his behavior.  I treat him so well and he does this to's like a puppy that loves it's owner so much and gets all excited to see it's master playing with it, and then it goes and takes a dump in it's masters shoes while the poor dude is not looking.  Anyway, I'm still having fun, but this damned game keeps taking metaphorical craps in my shoes...only to watch as I put them on and wonders why I get so pissed off.

So, my moral to this is two-fold.  First off, even the best games will have something wrong with them.  Secondly, if anyone knows a solution for this sparring glitch, tell me and I will be most happy.  True, that's not a moral or a lesson, but it needs to be said by someone who has lost a shit ton of free time because of this damned game.  Also, I can end the fights, but I cannot end it in a way in which I will win (I drain her vitality, and then the fight continues after I lose all my vitality until I pull out a force power).  Blah.  Ok, I have too much to do and far too little time to do it in.

By the way; Raggy, thanks for the B-Day greeting (Velveeta sent it to me).


Malik (12/31/04)  

The end of one of the wackiest geeking years is upon us.  There are many things to reflect on in this amazing year.  I did some of that work in my latest Malik's Bitchings (yes, it's a full length one, once again).  Strangely enough, things worked out perfectly in this regard with the week ending (my usual time for Malik's Bitchings) and the year ending on the same day.  Anyway, as I said this year had a lot for us to think about;

We saw Sony and sequels making some weird and bad decisions...but that's in the Bitchings.

Nintendo entered the handheld world for the second time in one generation.  This time the DS was the weapon of choice, which is a definite step up from their last attempt at this...the Virtual Boy.  The DS also saw some good competition, on paper at least, in the form of Sony's PSP.  The true conclusion of this battle is yet to unfold, but it should be a fun ride for us geeks.  In the end, since I've only played the DS, I can say the DS is a strong competitor in the crowded geeking market.  As for the PSP...who knows?  In the end, the games will decide, and for Japan (the only country to see both systems, so far) the choices of games makes both systems look like crap.  However, next year shows some strong competition on both fronts.  This is one adventure I'll definitely be a part of.

We also saw a Fall in which every game we wanted to see for the last 5 years hit the shelves at the same damned time.  We had Halo 2, Fable, Doom 3, Metroid Prime 2, and Half Life 2 in the FPS/blockbuster area.  All games that should have been out at least a year earlier.  In the end, I'd have to give the the championship title to HL2.  However, it was a great fight with some rather unexpected minor victories...and defeats. 

On top of that, RPG geeks saw everything from free form RPGs with KOTOR 2 and Fable, to tactical heaven in Phantom Brave, classical style Shadow Hearts: Covenant, and even some card style action (for those who like this type of thing) in Baten Kaitos.  The winner in this front would be the unexpectedly low profile games of KOTOR 2 (it wasn't too low profile, but far more subtle in it's presence than us KOTOR fans would expect) and SH:C.  However, in the end, each game was it's own unique vehicle that all deserved a good play through.

Then we had driving bliss with Burnout 3, Street Racing Syndicate, and NFS: Underground 2, to name a few.  In the end, Burnout 3 pwned everyone.

However, we also had some games that could not be put with anything else.  They were not expected, and they had no clear competition, beyond their own obscurity.  Yes, I'm talking about Katamari Damacy.  This would easily be my game of the year.  It was $20, it was addictive as hell, it was a game that you could play without stopping, and you could even find yourself drawn in just watching the game as the hypnotic insane rhythms bored through your brain.

There is far too much to remember in this last year.  I think it was a year for the ages, just for the selection and abundance...and the problems caused by the abundance.  Plus, new handhelds are always a nice addition to a year.  So, I will end this remembrance with KOTOR2 still blasting through my head.

However, before I part ways for the year, I will throw out a little bit more of my traditional ranting...tonight is Velveeta's New Years party, and I decided to bring some more fun to the arena by getting Mario Party 6 last night.  I got in a nice game with a few friends and think I made the right decision.  Even if Nintendo isn't doing so...why release two Mario Party games in one year and charge $50 for both of them at the same time.  I think Nintendo needs to consider dropping the price on one of these games, and the choice is obvious.

Also, I did manage to unlock the glitched battle on KOTOR2.  I just left the Ebon Hawk, re-entered, saw a nifty cut-scene, and then the battle worked.  So, I'm working my way up to building trust with everyone on my ship.  My goal is to corrupt them all to the light side.  Yes, I know corrupt is a word usually reserved for the dark side, but I'm corrupting them to the light side...especially poor Handmaiden, who took a vow to never use the force but will soon be a Jedi in my own image.

So, now I part ways, for the weekend, to get in some KOTOR2 before the drunken party games begin.  To all of you, a happy New Years.  Keep it safe, and have fun.  Peace.