Malik (1/3/05)  

The New Year is finally upon us.  So far there isn't exactly much of a difference over the previous year.  There's still little in the way of news.  I mean there's still the usual blending of business-type news.  TakeTwo is taking over the Sega ESPN development studio, EA is still claiming stock in anything that could be viewed as competition, blah, blah.  However, the holiday season is still concluding itself (it's not really over until the DSes and the PS2s return to the stores), so there won't be much in the way of real news until things settle down again.  I mean the average game companies are too excited about counting their Christmas presents (that being the profits they made off of us geeks) to announce anything important.  However, I expect some major news will come our way in the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, my New Years turned out pretty crappy.  On Friday, things started out pretty well, but I kept having this nagging feeling that the temperature of the world was a little off.  I ignored this feeling, and proceeded to get drunk with some friends as we geeked our way through the end of another year...that's when I got hit hard.  When I came to, I kept thinking that my hang-over was a little more severe than it should have been.  Soon, my hang-over passed, but my stomach just wouldn't recover, and I started to put the pieces together...let me just say, there is nothing like the feeling of getting food poisoning when you're about to start drinking.  Those are two things that don't get along nicely.  So, I spent the first day of the new year in nothing short of complete agony.  At least, like with these bouts of no geek news, food poisoning too does pass...but not quickly enough for my tastes.  I was in too much agony to even play KOTOR 2 for more than a few minutes (force speed, which is one of my most used powers, causes a visual blurring effect that will not get along nicely with nausea).

Anyway, yesterday I was able to get back on my feet.  I dropped some big money on my PC, and dropped some bigger chinks of time on KOTOR 2.  For some reason, shortly after this game came out, some people started to bitch about how this game had no improvements over the original (which I could only reply with, "if it's not broken, then shut the hell up and leave it be").  However, as I've reported for the last week, there are numerous improvements and changes.  However, after putting more than 45 hours into this game (and am probably only a little over half way done), I have to say I'm most surprised by how so few people have acknowledged how long this game is compared to the original (which could be beaten, with many side-quests, in just 30-35 hours). Oh well.  I guess people have to bitch about something with every good game, and it's easier to complain than to praise the good points of something like this game...which does have many good points.

Anyway, as I said, I spent a good deal of cash on my PC, so I need to split.  I have to tear apart my computer and put in a few components.  I decided it was safer to just install the parts after posting, since I'm still on vacation and computer work while on vacation seems to lead to one constant result for me...the computer needs major maintenance to fix the hundreds of problems that come up.  It's not that I suck with PC work, it's just my PC hates me when I work on it while I'm on vacation (it may sound superstitious, but it's true). 


Malik (1/4/05)  

My vacation officially is over. Normally I start to feel a bit unnerved during any long vacations. I always have this feeling that I should be doing something far more "constructive" than just sitting on my ass and playing games. Usually this leads to me doing some rather pointless trying to optimize my PC, wanting to be at work, or some other pointless and useless endeavor. Well, this vacation was longer than any prior one (thanks to work holidays during three of my seven work-days off), but in the end, I felt none of these stupid anxious feelings. In fact, I think this was the best vacation I've had (besides getting food poisoning). 

I owe all of these feelings, or at least most of them, to KOTOR 2. I have not been this addicted to a game since Xenogears. Every time I load up K2, I always have a set time I plan to quit playing by...and then I over shoot that time a few dozen times as I set new quitting times. There is always "one last thing to do before I quit" in this game. I will feel like I can finally stop playing when I'll look at my quest screen and see that there is one more quest I can finish really quickly...then another quest opens that I just need to investigate "a little before I quit", and then I can finish another quest, and never stops. With KOTOR I had the same general feeling, but this game is so much more involved with the ability you have to win over party members with influence (dialogue and action choices that can make them happy) and then the potential to turn these influenced people to the force. The game gives you 3 automatic force users as you progress through the game, but you have the potential to turn another four or five to changing their class to the Jedi classes. This, combined with the numerous quests just makes it too hard to call it quits for the night...and then you have all of the item creation abilities and item upgrades you can make.

Anyway, K2 has claimed my will to live. I don't think I have a chance of breaking free of it's grip any longer than necessary...

However, sometimes you realize you need to leave K2 behind to take care of learning a single lesson over and over again. So, in Malik's Bitchings last Friday I mentioned my two biggest complaints of the year. One of which was the nature of how Sony cannot make anything beyond home entertainment good without making it glitchy and crap-tacular. So, yesterday I mentioned getting some new parts for my PC (don't worry, these random points are winding together), including a Sony DVD burner (there, it's almost full circle now). Well, after posting yesterday, I installed the burner and after trying to convert some files to DVD video with Nero 6 (included software package), which takes a good couple of hours when you do the crazy shit I do, the burner started to burn a DVD...and then it stopped 30 seconds later.

So, before I completely lost it, I decided to check out the situation (diagnostics, tests, trying outside software for burning, etc). I found out that my drive is amazing. I was dumb enough to think I was buying a DVD burner from Sony, when in actuality it called itself a DVD burner, but was actually a CD burner that reads DVDs (sarcasm). So, I didn't learn my lesson about how crappy Sony is with computers and video games, and thus I bought a Sony burner that can only handle CD burning. All signs seem to point to the obvious; it's another piece of defective Sony crap. I know when I try to exchange it tonight that I'll have to trade it for the same exact piece of crap, but I'm hoping that there are none of this model left so I can correct my stupid error of buying something Sony when I could have gone a hundred different ways. Blah.

So, I'll log off about now since I need to get in the little amount of KOTOR 2 I can before Velveeta gets home from work, and then we can storm the exchange line at Best Buy.


Malik (1/5/05)  

So, I went to Best Buy last night and got the DVD burner problems sorted out. I also picked up another pack of DVDs. Then I got home, with some crap in between, and found out that on top of the Sony drive I previously bought being bad, also the Sony DVD-R pack I bought was full of bad DVDs. However, my new pack confirmed that my new drive works, so it's all good now. 

Also, while at Best Buy, I finally found a PS2 for sale. They've been too damned hard to find lately with all of the kids wanting to blow their Christmas money on a PS2. So, I found one, and bought it. I have to say, so far, I'm happy with this new slim design. The actual size means nothing to me, but it has updated DVD drivers, which is always nice (remember, I had the first US PS2 release, so my old DVD drivers were really bad), and it also has the network adapter built in, if I ever find a reason to use it, and a built in IR for a DVD remote. However, my favorite feature is the flip top for DVD access instead of the sliding drawer. Why? Because all I need is a long and thin spring and I can trick the system into thinking the drive is closed as I use my swap magic disk to play some import games. That's definitely a lot better than having to buy a flip top case, like I did with my old PS2. I mean a spring only costs pocket change while a flip-top case is about $20 plus shipping. Anyway, the PS2 works and I'm happy. 

I also got to play, before heading out to Best Buy, the coolest KOTOR 2 moment yet. When you go to Korriban, there's a cave from the original KOTOR that you can go through again on K2. However, this time there's an extra area in the back that has a temple of a fallen Sith lord. In this temple, you go solo (as your main character) to undergo a series of trials that are reminiscent of Luke's failure on Degobah on Empire Strikes Back...but bigger and cooler. Plus it involves not only learning more of your past, but also a chance to see some familiar faces from KOTOR 1. I won't spoil anything, but I'll just say it was hella cool. 

Anyway, I may sound a bit distracted today. I have a good reason. As I got in my car to go to Best Buy last night, I noticed my driver side door handle coming off. I took it, at first, as my piece of crap car falling apart. However, when I got home I tried to see if I could fix the problem and realized that (as my brother called it) "a retarded thief" tried to steal my car. Instead of succeeding, he/she managed to mess up my door, piss me off, and help to ensure that even I not have trouble getting into my car...way to f#@%ing go! You are such a f$%&ing worthless thief that not only could you not steal a piece of shit, but you made it so someone with a key can barely get into it! I just hope that attempted thief knows how thoroughly worthless and incompetent their bitch ass is... 

Seattle has been hit by a big increase in car thefts lately, and I don't even want to go into the logic (or lack there of) behind this fact. However, I'd just like to point out that my ugly as shit, two-door, tiny as a clown car, dirty as hell, obviously run down car should not be a big target unless it's by a thief so f%$@ing stupid as to botch stealing it by jamming the lock and door both closed and locked. I would feel a big sense of shame in mankind when such actions happen, but instead I feel an ever bigger sense of shame when these actions happen by someone so stupid as to f$%# up stealing a car as crappy as mine when it's constantly surrounded by far better cars to take. 

Plus, I just spoke to the Seattle police about all of this and...big surprise, they don't give a shit.  They wouldn't take my name, my car info, or any other details about this.  I've grown used to this crap, since as I've said many times before (in this same off-topic manner), the Seattle police are the most corrupt and apathetic group of authoritative people I've ever had the great misfortune to deal with.  As an old saying goes, "f$#% the police!"...or at least the Seattle police.

So, I'm pissed off and my brain wants to rebel after all of this. I hope to play some KOTOR 2 to calm my nerves, but this is unlikely since my piece of shit car cannot handle even driving on frost and some snow is expected in the next day or, I now have to rush about trying to fix my door (which is not going to be easy by any means) before I am stranded by the snow with a busted door handle/lock. Blah.


Malik (1/6/05)  

I decided, shortly after posting last night, to just say screw it to responsibilities for an evening. I mean, on one hand, I needed to get some work done to fix my car door before the supposed Seattle snow storm hits. But on the other hand, the retarded attempted thief who messed with my car only succeeded in making my door hard as hell to open, so it's all good. I mean I have one fully working door, and one door that takes a minor feat of strength to open, so it's still all good...annoying, but all good. 

So, I jumped, once again, into an evening that consisted mainly of KOTOR 2. I think I'm almost at the end of this game. I mean I've reached the point in which major people are dying or disappearing, the major plot mysteries are being explained, and major bad-ass plot things are going on. Compared to the end of K1, this game is insanely awesome. I mean K1 was hella sweet, but K2 is making it look like a pile of crap. The plot is more enveloping, more detailed, and filled with far more suspense. For those who wonder how I, an RPG geek, could love RPGs but loathe MMOs, KOTOR 2 explains it all; the plot. 

I also have started to get some really cool abilities, including one that the name escapes me (I usually memorize the general name or icon for a power than the actual power's name) but it activates speed (increase number of attacks and armor), valor (increase all stats), and shield powers (increase armor and saving throws) all at once for a massively reduced FP cost. My Jedi is now an unstoppable combat master...or he would be, except I only have a speed power, so all this new ability does is activated force speed...yeah. I skipped on the buffs for my main character since Kreia (the creepy neutral advisor you have with you for the majority of the game) was a better person to give buffs to (I fought in battle and she buffed and healed from the back lines). Since your character and Kreia have a force link ability, any ability used by Kreia automatically effects you too. Well, I've now reached a point in which she is no longer in my active party (due to alternating personal choices and plot devices), so I now have no easy use of force shield, and no good valor ability. Blah.

Anyway, the plot is hella good, so I'm guessing I'll be wrapping up KOTOR 2 in a matter of a day or two of playing. I would like to give this game another shot as an evil character, but that will have to wait. I think I'll miss my massively upgraded Jedi too much if I started a new game so soon. Plus, I am still wanting to finish my second play through of Xenosaga 1 before Xenosaga 2 arrives next month. Also, in theory, I want to at least check out Suikoden 4...but I'm skeptical. As I've complained about many times lately, too many good RPGs have been corrupted in their latest incarnations, so I'll remain skeptical until I can do some major research into the innovative crap thrown into this game.

Also, as I keep saying, there is no geek news this week...or last week. So, I'm thinking I'll be skipping the Malik's Bitchings this week out of necessity, not choice. I could complain about some shit, but it will just be old news. So, until some real news comes out for me to pick apart, I'll just chill. However, I'll try to get around to a KOTOR 2 review quite soon. I'd expect it up sometime within the next week (probably sooner than later). Anyway, I need to play some more K2...not for the review (I've played over 60 hours so far, so I have plenty for the review)...I just NEED to play more. This is easily the best XBox game I've played, and within the top 5 RPGs I've ever played. It's too hard to put down a game this good. Later.


Malik (1/7/05)  

As I said yesterday, since there is no real news this week, Malik's Bitchings is going on hiatus this week. I mean, the only real news out there this week is that there's no word of any new consoles at the CES and that Gran Turismo 4 is selling like mad in Japan. 

On one hand, a lack of news about next gen consoles at the CES is nothing fact it's nothing. I mean the odds are greater that new consoles will be brought into the spot light at E3. The CES is as much video games now as a department store can be called a video game retailer. Video games do come up at CES, but not as much as the thousands of other electronics that make up the CES. Microsoft will be far better off to use E3, as I've always expected them to do this year, as a place to introduce the world to the successor to the think otherwise is to think against geek conventional thoughts. So, ultimately, there is not a damned thing to bitch about here since it's not news and it's common sense (and common sense is usually what I am trying to push as a good concept in Malik's Bitchings). 

As for GT4 doing good in Japan...ummm...ok, there's nothing to bitch about here. Plus, on top of that, this is completely expected. There is really nothing news worthy here. It would be more news worthy to say "GT4 is failing in Japan"...but it's not, so there's no news here. 

Anyway, I'm planning to start making my KOTOR 2 review really soon. This should make up for a lack of Bitchings this week. At least I like to think so. I'll get working on it soon, but it takes time to write. 

Speaking of KOTOR 2, I finished it last night. I clocked in a hair under 64 hours at my last save, so the game came out of over 64 hours counting the final battle. For those who say that the original, at 30-40 hours to completion, was too short, I still can't agree. It's all based on how long a game can keep the gamer interested. If you leave a game wanting more, than the developer succeeded in making a good game. Think of it this way; if a game is really too short, then you won't want more since there was too little to make it worthwhile to begin with. As for KOTOR, it left all of us wanting more, so it succeeded. As for KOTOR 2; I WANT MORE. Plain and simple, even at 64 hours to completion, I want a sequel and I want it now...however, I'll settle for a sequel in the future if it means having the bugs worked out. 

That was, ultimately, my only real complaint with K2; the bugs. There were a few too many to be overlooked this time. The worst one was what I call "the equipment bug". In this bug, after you try to alter someone's equipment or try to equip an item that has been recently altered into a slot that already has equipment (to effectively trade the equipped and unequipped equipment), the game is prone to rebooting. This is especially true if you're milking Handmaiden for robes (if she just put on robes in dialogue and you want some other armor on her, save and unequip the robes with "nothing" before equipping the new armor choice) or you just upgraded someone's lightsaber (save before and after upgrading/altering the LS and then equip). Which is why I decided to save every 5 minutes. It was annoying, but it was for the best...however, this brings about a rarer, but far more annoying bug; "the save glitch". Sometimes, as you save the game, the screen will go black and the game will either crash or reboot. However, your save will be corrupted. This is why I saved every 5 minutes on alternating slots (covering a total of about 35 save slots). It may seen like overkill, but it was well worth it.

Anyway, my only other complaint with this fine game is how it comes to a conclusion. In most fun (truly fun) games, I usually feel the ending is just a cherry on the top of the awesome game sundae. So, usually, if an ending is really crappy, but the game was fun, I will not care nearly as much as the average message-board-posting geek. However, for the first time ever, I played through a game that only left me wanting more and then actually found myself hating the game. I decided to block out the ending and just assume a new KOTOR 3 will wrap up the loose ends since I want to keep loving this game. The ending is that bad. I won't spoil a thing, but I will tell you this; when the credits roll, hit the power button and never go back. This way you can assume you miss the great ending that follows the credits...for those who wonder what they would miss...nothing...there's nothing after the credits, and there's nothing before the credits...there is literally a lack of ending. The game gives a final series of dialogue options after the last boss, and then when you end the dialogue, the credits roll and the game goes back to the main menu. So, if you decided to play as a character who skips most dialogues (by selecting the option that's usually present that goes something like, "Shut up, I'm out of here"), then you will have no ending. If you like the dialogue (I know I did), you'll have a really lame ending that will make you feel like FF1 had an awesome ending.

Anyway, I now have a gaming void in my life, so I'll probably work on Xenosaga for a bit. I was thinking of getting Suikoden 4 (comes out Tuesday), but a 4 member combat team, fewer runes, and a good deal of the other changes from S1-3 just don't sound like my cup of tea. I may still get S4, but I'll probably wait for the next major RPG drought (which I think is scheduled for a couple months from now).

Anyway, I need to get back into Xenosaga and get used to a working PS2 (it's nice to have escaped DRE hell).