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Malik (11/14/05)  

One phrase for you all..."about f#$%ing time!" I'm talking about how Microsoft has finally (with less than two freakin' weeks to the launch) announced which games are backwards compatible on the 360. However, I ask that you all take a look at the list and tell me if you see a problem, or two. Don't see it? It's only one of the greatest selling game franchises on the current generation being completely overlooking. Yes, I am talking about Burnout. So, while I could see Burnout Revenge being ignored, since it is coming, in theory, sometime early next year to the 360, this doesn't include Burnout 2 or Burnout 3 (which, in my opinion, is the best of the series). 

I also won't mention that the ignoring of a game like Beyond Good and Evil, which is probably one of the best overlooked games of the last generation, is just weak. This game was ignored the first time it came out the gate, and it's still being ignored. That's part of the concept behind what makes us BG&E fans so upset. This is not the first time it's been ignored, and it won't be the last time. It also is part of the underlying reason we will never see a BG& just doesn't get any love. 

At least we have the lamest of games, like Conflict: Desert Storm. Don't get me wrong, this is an awesome game. It's just not great for much besides a quick rental on a night when you have three bored friends with a lot of silliness going around. Or there's also the Crash games, which are also shit. Hell, we can have Catwoman, but no Burnout 3...makes complete sense...or not. 

Also, it sounds like the original set of games that will be backwards compatible also include a pain in the ass technique for playing on the 360. If you have Internet hooked up to the 360, then you just have to download some files. However, if you don't have Internet, you will need to burn the files to a CD and install them, or you will be required to order a CD from Microsoft (for some money) and then install them on the 360 when the CD arrives. This all comes back to what I said when Half-Life 2 came out; one should not be required to have Internet to play a game that is offline. 

Also, on the same general note of things to do with a 360, if you are getting on next Tuesday, there's finally (with less than two weeks to launch...WTF Microsoft!?) a list of launch titles. If you're like me, you'd probably notice two things. The first is a lack of the RPG influence...which we've known since Oblivion was delayed. The second is how there are more games that are cross-platform than there are exclusive titles. CoD2, FIFA, Gun, Madden, NBA games, NFS, NHL, many different cross-platform titles, and only less than a half dozen original exclusive titles. I remember Microsoft promising a launch that would be different and better than all past much for that. While the PS2 launched with lame games, at least most of them were PS2 exclusive crap. 

Ok, I am bitchy today. I think I got a stomach bug this weekend...which is never good when you add libations to the mix. So, while I'm done being hungover, my gut is still killing me and keeping me from thinking clearly. So, I'll end with one last thought; tomorrow continues the insanity of awesome portable games with Legend of Heroes (maybe the first must have PSP title, since GTA is not "must have" by any means, and the first solid PSP RPG in the US) and Mario Kart (can I get a "woot!"?). So, I'll be trying my best to take down GTA:LCS tonight so that I'll be ready for the great games tomorrow. 


Malik (11/15/05)  

With Mario Kart DS still not in my hands last night, I had few options. I was stuck with a steaming pile of crap that most people worship (blindly with fanboy appeal) called GTA:LCS. I still can't believe that I had to pay $50 for this game when it lacks anything of quality. This is definitely one of those things I will bitch about for some time to come...well, until I have a game in my PSP that I can actually say is worth the $50 price tag. 

I have held back on reviewing this game, and for a good reason. I'm trying to give it the full benefit of the doubt. The only way to do that is to ensure that I fully finish the game prior to reviewing it. However, that is the hard part. This game is difficult to play through when I'm stuck between a rock (the lame nub) and a hard place (the unimaginative missions). For example, last night I played missions with such originality as "go drive to point A, shoot people, and drive back to point B" and "get some friends and shoot people". Is this from the same line of imaginative property that gave us "Vertical Bird" and the Casino Heist of GTA:SA? I guess so...despite how is sure as hell doesn't feel that way. 

I will probably be letting GTA:LCS collect some dust on the shelf (along with the still-needing-a-quality-game PSP) after I pop Mario Kart DS into my DS this afternoon. I just don't see myself going back to this bland excuse for a $50 game when I can have a game for a fraction of the cost that will give quality entertainment. It's not that Mario Kart DS will have a deeper level of game play as much as it will deliver what it promises; a great kart racing game. Meanwhile, GTA:LCS promises a GTA experience in a portable...and delivers a GTA world with none of the detail. 

Anyway, I have little to say, am still feeling like crap, and am in desperate need of some quality gaming. Expect something a little different tomorrow with some praise of a game for the first time since I laid Fable back to rest. In other words, expect some Mario Kart impressions. 


Malik (11/16/05)  

To say Mario Kart DS has left a good impression on me that there can be good games for this device would be one hell of an understatement. In fact, this is, without a doubt, the best time I have spent with the DS since I bought it nearly a year ago. I just wish more games would be designed around this simple premise. That premise would be that a good console style game can be developed for this system that doesn't require massive touch screen use. 

The only peeves I can think of with this game are quite minor to the peeves I had with the other supposed "must have" game (Castlevania DS). The first one, which is minor, is that it's a throw-back to the older Mario Kart titles. In other words, I miss Double Dash. I miss how you slide into turns, rather than had to jump into a slide. Let's face it, the jump on older Mario Kart games, and this one, is a nearly wasted skill that is only used for extra air on ramps that end with boost sections. Also, that's not to mention how I liked the concept of keeping two items on your cart at a time. With only one item, it means you have to be less offensive when you're in first place, and that's just not as fun as leaving massive piles of bananas all over the track. I know you can hold an item behind you by holding the item button, but... 

Another peeve is that I'm starting to see how uncomfortable the DS is for action games. Seriously, I played some last night, and this morning my hands still feel like I spent a whole night playing guitar. It's hard to keep certain buttons pressed (like the item hold/use button and the accelerator) for multiple races in a row. Your hand will feel it after a few races. 

I also saw some flaws with the slide boost technique. For one, I think changing it to red sparks from how it was blue in MK:DD seems like a weird transition. Blue in DS is for when you are just starting the technique, as the red was in DD. To switch it up just feels like Nintendo is having a case of ADD. Pick one and go with it. Also, the controls for the slide boost are a little awkward. I know this move perfectly, thanks to DD, and they feel a little unrefined in DS. In fact, there are times when I hit the correct d-pad movements, and it still won't fire until I go through the cycle a second time (usually sliding into a wall in the process). 

There's also now a ranking system. You no longer want to just get gold on every race. You will be ranked on your ability with an inane ranking system of a letter grade for bad scores. An "A" means you didn't suck too badly. However, if you do better than "A", you will get a gold star. This means you still aren't that great. In order to be great, you have to earn three golden stars. It's like trying to combine the old grade-school grade system of getting a check with or without a plus or minus, but combining it with a standard letter score. Once again, I think Nintendo had some ADD...pick a system and run with it. I won't even say how hard it is to get a triple gold star...I have several grand prix completed with the victory cup, but only receiving a "C". Does this make sense? It doesn't to me. 

There's also mission mode, in which you complete some completely pointless goals. For example, you'll be told to collect all coins on a track, and then the game will pick your racer. So, you may have a windy course with a big and sloppy racer, like Bowser. Once again, you are graded on the stars and letters system and you are supposed to get all triple stars. The missions are mainly boring (how many times can I collect all the coins? Apparently, I'm supposed to a few too many times. 

Lastly, the game has some issues with the CPU's abilities. The computer will pick a racer at the start of each grand prix (it won't tell you who it picked, but you'll know soon enough), and this driver will have insane abilities. For example, this is so broken because I saw the racer with the lowest top speed and the highest acceleration fly far ahead of me (playing Mario who has a damned nice top speed), despite how I never hit anything (so I never slowed down) and how I hit every turn with a slide boost. I'm not one who likes to say "the computer cheated", but I think I can tell sometimes when the game is messing with me. This is a game that will do so. I have never been so challenged in a MK game, and unfortunately the challenge is not coming from the game, but rather the advantage the computer gives this one golden driver. 

Last of all, for my peeves, is the fact that there are now 32 courses, instead of the usual 16, in this game. I like that. However, 16 are "retro" courses from past MK games. That's fine too. The bad part is that some of Nintendo's choices show that the developers never played the old Mario Kart games. The "Moo Moo" course is of the lamest and more boring courses in MK history. From DD, which had some awesome courses, they actually picked (among 4 other courses) the Baby track (the small and boring oval). Seriously, the designers should have picked a few of the truly great courses. I know I could name 16 other courses that should've been in this. It also doesn't help when a few twists and secrets of these old courses have been changes (like on Mushroom Bridge). 

I would comment on online play, but Nintendo had the usual problem of a new online game; the servers were down when I tried to play. I don't fault Nintendo. This is their first real step in online gaming, so they will have some bugs as they get it running. Also, the first few days of a new and anticipated online game usually finds the developer saying "Damn! I didn't know the game would be this popular" as their servers die an agonizing and suffocating death. That's all fine. This will probably be solved in a few days. At least the process of initiating the online connection is really easy compared to another certain (worthless) handheld. 

Besides those issues, which really are pretty minor, the game is solid. This is a nice throw-back to the classics of the MK family. It's a great game, probably the first must-have DS game for fans of more lighthearted genres (in other words, those who don't enjoy Advance Wars), and it's damned addictive. I know this game should keep me nicely entertained until the 360 hits next week. Now if only the DS didn't hurt my hand so badly...I actually had to play some GTA:LCS last night when I couldn't hold the DS anymore. I guess, despite how it has no great games and has the worst analogue input of all time, the PSP does have one thing going for it; it's feels nice in your hand, even if it won't handle how it should. 

Before I go for the day, and play some more MK, I feel like sharing a bit of news for the Square Enix fans (do they still exist...or are they all just "fanboys"?). Square Enix is considering making Dragon Quest and FF games for both the PS3 and the 360 in the next generation. I think it's about time they considered this. After all, the PS3 is, as of now, having an uncertain future. It will do great in the end (it's Sony), but the first year or two may be shaky as the prospect of being so overpriced looms on the horizon. So, if you're afraid of not having anymore crying male leads and stuck-up female leads in story-deprived RPGs when you can't afford a PS3, there may (key word being "may") be some hope for you. Yes, I still have no love left in my weary old body for Square's half-assed attempts at making trendy games with overly cliche plots that have no likable main characters (and if you liked Tidus...sigh...he f$#@ing couldn't stop crying for his daddy the whole game! What type of f@#%ing hero is that?!). 


Malik (11/17/05)  

For those as caught up as myself on bitching about the next-gen, there's good news at Gamespot. Basically, there are rumors floating around that the PS3 batarang controller may undergo some changes (like by making it look less like something from a Batman movie and more like something that isn't a joke). Well, as far as Gamespot seems to deduce, that won't happen. So, on the plus side, there's still plenty to bitch about. On the other hand, this means we probably will have this ridiculous object sitting in living rooms in several months. 

Anyway, I gave up my thought of playing Mario Kart DS some more. I will play again, but last night I realized two things. First off, I need to finish GTA:LCS. I really want to bitch about this game in a proper review, so I need to finish the damned thing. Sadly, I still can't play more than a few missions at a time without feeling like I'm going beyond my obligation to get a review out. This game is just sapping my will to geek. Last night, for example, I played a couple of missions that basically amounted to "blow up those cars" and "kill those people". Is this supposed to be a quality experience? I don't think so. In fact, that "blow up vehicles" mission amounted to this; I drove two blocks from where I started, got out of my car, and fired three rockets (which I was hinted at to buy before the previous mission). Grenades would've worked too. That was it. Mission accomplished. was the single lamest mission I've played yet. It lasted a whole 10 seconds (ok...really, it was more along the lines of 15 seconds) and had no challenge at all. 

The second thing I realized last night is that I've been neglecting one of the best theme-park-style sims; The Movies. This is an awesome game. I honestly can't find a thing to complain about with this title. The game gives the best of all that is in a theme-park sim, a people sim (like The Sims), and a an awesome machima generator. 

The only thing I would've liked to see more of is a little more automation in your employees. For example, when your writers finish a new script, they will proceed to wander around the studio until you force them to work again. So, these small details will keep your working at pointless clicking and dragging. However, the other details of the game easily counter this excess of involvement. 

For example, last night I was trying to get an overworked cast and director to make their third film in a row. So, shortly after the filming started, my director ran off to the bar. Eventually he went back to the set, but then the star decided to do the same. In a game in which a film is usually made in well under a year, it took that movie 48 months to be made...and at the end, it was the worst film I made yet. It flopped. Worse than that, the star ratings for all people involved bombed since they had not been seen in film for 4 years. It was like I made my own Ishtar. I didn't know whether to be proud about that, or to be sad. 

The game really gives a nice blending of having to play the boss and playing the role of a guy who really wants to make people happy. If you make your stars too happy, then you make no money. However, if you make them work hard for you, you end up with a bunch of actors in rehab. I was just glad that I won a movie award the previous cycle, which gave me the bonus that none of my actors would end up addicted to booze for a few years. If it wasn't for that, I'm sure that one of my two directors, and one of my six actors would've been out of action and sitting in counseling. 

Anyway, since it's been a couple of days, I'm going to try giving Mario Kart online play a chance tonight. I think Nintendo should have most of the server bugs worked out, and I need a break from my divas of film. 


Malik (11/18/05)  

Last night I was finally able to connect to Mario Kart DS online. I do have some qualms with the method that the system uses for online matches. It did pretty well at matching me with a good range of opponents who seemed to have about the same skill level as me (despite how I smoked 'em...sorry, had to brag about that). I'm not personally sure of how the game matches people, but it felt like it was using some sort of score based on my ranks on different one-player courses or something like that. The worst guy I faced felt like he was only slightly less proficient than myself, and the best of the guys I played felt like he was the exact same skill level as me (I only won due to him/her making one fatal mistake on the final turn of the final track). 

The qualms I have are based on simple problem. It took me about 2 minutes for the online service to find a game for me to join. I feel like it shouldn't take that long to start a game. With how many people are playing online (I imagine this is a high number), it should only take a few seconds, not minutes, to find a game. I also didn't care for how so many people seemed to quit in the middle of a game (each game has four races)...that's not Nintendo's fault, but it is a qualm, none-the-less. 

The other issue I have is that the game will not show when (or let...not sure on the physical nature of this) you drag an item behind your cart. This means you either have less of a shield, or you don't see it. Either way, the game play for an online match should equal that of a one player game. It really shouldn't be that much of a drain on the DS to show items being trailed behind a kart. 

I also have to say that it would've been nice to have 8-player online games. I guess I can understand if the DS just can't handle this ( probably could). However, it sure would've been nice. After all, if Mario Kart has ever taught us anything, it's the fact that 8 player races are better than four any day of the week. 

At least, like I said, the methods used, after your hideous 2 minute wait, to play an online game are really well done. Each game is made of four races, like with the standard 1 player GP mode. Also, each track is chosen before each round starts. Each player is able to cast a vote for any of the levels and then the game will start the one with the most votes. If there is no winner (a tie), then the game will simply pick one of the selections at random. This way you always have a nice mix of tracks (unless you have the same two dumbass opponents I had one game who loved Moo Moo a little too much) and enough rounds to be able to be sloppy on one race and still come out on top for the total game. 

Also, for those who've heard some weird rumors with the friend codes, these are not as all encompassing as they seem at first glance. When you start playing MK:DS online, the game will assign you a 12-digit code. This is your identity online (you DS nickname is still used, but this is a tracking number so friends can find you). If you want to play a game without a friend code inputted, then you can. However, if you want to just play with some of your friends, then you can do so as well. The only drawback on this system is that you cannot obtain a friend code while playing. In other words, you cannot have a great time racing a random stranger and then hope to ever run into this same person again. 

Anyway, I'm still aiming to defeat GTA:LCS before the 360 comes out. I'm not 100% sure if I can do this anymore, but I'll see how the weekend treats me. If I can finish this damned this before the weekend is over, you can expect a review by the time the 360 is in my hands on Tuesday. 

Before I fade away for the weekend, I just found one last thing I'd like to share. So, it seems, with the 360 looming on the horizon, there is some undue hatred for this new system at FOX News. I can understand easily if someone was to blast the 360. I can see the rumors about how the systems are intentionally being limited in the first release (it's not a worldwide's a worldwide launch, which lowers the supply to each individual region) and the talk of game stores limiting first batch systems to those who preorder the most stuff with the 360 (which is least the idea of this applying to all stores is false, since I know that my EB is not doing this...what can I say beyond "it's nice having a store where everybody knows your name"?) making people hate the 360. I can also see people who claim that it will only be worth it if you have an HD-TV saying the system sucks for standard TV owners. 

That last one is a lie. The system has some nice abilities that make up for it's HD-centric ways (more polygons making more characters on screen like in Kameo, downloading demos and trailers for FREE, a better button layout than the XBox, some nice looking exclusive titles, blah, blah). It just, like with all new games, comes down to how visuals are always the first thing that the masses see, and hence it's the easiest thing to form a first opinion off of. 

The thing I don't get is unfounded BS about how FOX News is telling me "Don't Buy the 360". For one, these claims they make are along the same lines as a fanboy claims of how Tidus is the greatest RPG hero ever just because he is a Square creation. For one, with some lines like "Sure, you could rush out and drop hundreds on the 360, but we have no idea what the next-gen PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution are going to be capable of doing" make it sound like the PS3 is still possible to be fully endorsed by FOX News. Well, at the same time they go on to say that the price is a little too steep. Have they considered that Sony has announced that the PS3 will be "expensive" (Sony's word)? Have they also considered that no peripheral that costs upwards of $600 when coupled with the 360 will be needed for online play? No. That's why these claims are being made. Maybe, in order to support their claim that money is wasted on a 360, they could say to wait on considering any systems (remember, if you want a launch PS3, you better have pre-ordered by now, so this is very relevant to the current time). 

I just think these articles speak volumes about FOX News having some wacky ideas. However, as a soon-to-be-360-owner, and a geek who has every major console ever released, I have something to say. These are unbiased and honest thoughts from a technophile and geek; me. 

First of all, the 360 will be a better value, at launch, than the PS3. This is for one simple reason; all systems are lackluster at launch. So, while the PS3 is supposed to be more expensive than the 360, it also means the PS3 will be more expensive just for that joy of having it before you have any quality games. 

Secondly, all of the systems in the next-gen will be pretty damned nice after the first 6-12 months. The Revolution will have the least games (but more quality games per flop game). The PS3 will have the most games, but the most flops. The 360 will have a medium amount (closer to PS3 levels) on all fronts. As for launch; they will all have at least one fun game (I'd bet PDZ and Kameo will not be games I regret buying, and I bet CoD2 and PGR3 will be nice too). The line ups are not too set for the Revolution or PS3, but they will each have one to three good games as well. 

Thirdly, graphics don't make the game, but support for newer technology is always good. While I don't care too much about a game having to be HD, I still think the option to use HD is what will be a nice feature. Supposedly the HD era will be in full effect near the end of this new generation (2009), and thus it would be better to implement the tech now and not look bad later. This will be the only known downfall of the Revolution, which doesn't support HD. The true answer is a balance of supporting new technology, but making sure that old technology is still supported as well (which I know, for a fact, is being done on the 360, while Revolution is out, and the jury is still out on the PS3). 

Fourth, you need to realize that research is the most important tool in this frontier that is laying out in front of us. The FOX News articles lacked research. This is seen in the hints of how HD-TVs are the only important newly supported feature with the 360, and how online will cost $600 when bundled with the system. Those are wrong. They are as wrong at hinting how the 360 is not worth it because it won't be able to play Shadow the Hedgehog. Also, while some, like FOX, may say that the XBox has a lot of quality games in it's future, the truth is that the majority of quality games released for a Microsoft console after Tuesday will be 360 games. XBox is nearly dead (for better or worse). 

Last of all, and this is why I can dismiss these articles so easily, FOX News reporters must be completely out of touch with the game industry when they call Shadow and Bulletproof "hot games". These are going to be more of the same mass produced crap that define both the game industry and, in particular, the Sega of recent years. Also, it doesn't help FOX News' case when they print two articles in a supposedly "professional" format that serve to do nothing more than bash a system that is not out while praising a half dozen games that also aren't available yet to the public. 

So, the true lessons are threefold. Fanboys can come in all forms, not just in "unprofessional/amateur" sources. Research is more important than hype. All of the next-gen systems will be awesome in their own ways, but you need to pick the right one(s) for yourself off of your own research. 

I'm now just curious of what FOX News will be reported in the last week before the PS3 and the Revolution launch. Will they once again point out the pricing problems with the more expensive PS3, or will they be more friendly to the Blu-Ray buddy (remember, FOX News is owned by FOX...which is one of Sony's pals in the next-gen DVD debate, while Microsoft is on the opposing team...just a thought)? 


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