Malik (11/15/04)  

Over the weekend, I ended up buying a couple of GBA games that I've been waiting to get until I had the money (too many pre-orders throughout the year to afford them); River City Ransom DX and Shining Soul 2. I didn't actually get too much play time with RSR since it's so much like the original 8-BIT NES title...which is definitely not a bad thing. I bought this game mainly because of my fond memories of the 8-BIT classic. For those who never played it, it's like a cross between Double Dragon and a RPG. You fight using a very similar method to that in Double Dragon, but at the same time you earn money that can be used to buy healing, new moves, and stat increases. 

I did play a good deal of SS2, however. This is a much improved version of the original SS (another GBA title), in which you have a few extra classes to chose from and the ability to save anywhere you want. In fact, the saving option is the big improvement since the original was pretty picky about allowing saves to only occur outside of dungeons. This game plays a lot like Secret of Mana 3 (Japanese-SNES) in which you use a Zelda/Diablo style engine with a chosen character that matches a specific class with unique special abilities. The plot is horrible, and the translations leave much to be desired, but the game itself is fun and addictive in that Diablo style of always searching for that next level-up or that next special item. 

The other game I got a lot of time with was GTA:SA. I'm still devoted, almost 100%, to this game. I only got in a few missions since I was determined to finish the car-export side-mission (in which you bring specific cars to a specific location and get paid for them). Sadly, like with GTA3 and VC, a common car will become rare once you need it for the export list. This is just maddening with how many different car types there are in GTA:SA and how so many are found only on certain areas (which are almost always far from the export location in San Fierro). 

However, my biggest problem I came across this weekend while playing SA is the effect that occurs when a big game is ran to have no load times on the PS2...every once in a while, especially when the entire game has been unlocked, the PS2 will have loading problems and will freeze the game while you are in a mission or when you're driving really fast (which will cause some bad results when the game resumes). At first I thought my aging PS2 was just dying on me, but then I tried other games and had no problems. Then I looked up some message boards and found other people with healthy PS2s were facing the same issues. Sadly, I hate to say this, but I'd rather have normal load times than to push the antiquated PS2 so hard that this keeps happening. 

At least I was still able to do some really cool missions...like one in which you go to St. Mark's Bistro (a location some may recognize from GTA3), or like when your robbery plans with Wu Zi Mu finally becomes a reality. That has to be one of the best mission concepts I've seen on a GTA game. You get a nice mix of high speed chase with many stars, some helicopter escaping (if you're able to get to the helicopter...I messed up and had to do things by land), some parachuting off of the top of a building, some squad based infiltration, some solo infiltration, timed segments (long enough timer to not be too hard, but short enough to keep you on your toes), police stand-offs...this mission had everything (even some good Wu Zi humor). However, doing this mission caused another SA glitch to happen that always angers me... 

Every so often, a mission in GTA:SA will force you to lose certain weapons, even if you don't get one that replaces it's weapon slot. In the case of this robbery mission, I got no heavy weapon, but I lost my rocket launcher with 108 rockets (I know where to pick up a free set of rockets, but it takes several days in SA to get up to 108...or several hours in the real world). I also lost my D'Eagle, but at least I got some silenced 9mm in it's place. This is understandable when you either get something in place of the lost weapons, or the loss is story driven (like when you get caught by CRASH...the cops...and they take all your gear), but when rockets just vanish for no reason, it's pretty lame. I even had all of my weapons vanish on a mission one time for no reason and when I failed the mission (because I had no weapons) and tried again, I had all my weapons the second time. It's nice that Rockstar was trying so hard to give so many weapons, no load times between cities, etc, but if the cost is so many glitches, they might need to rethink this strategy for future games. 

I still haven't played anymore Halo 2. I was aiming to play on Saturday, but Velveeta had too much to do when I had some free time. Then we aimed to play yesterday, but we got caught up in some chores, etc. I'm hoping maybe to play some tonight, but I'm not too certain that will happen since the plot on GTA:SA just got a lot more interesting. 

Anyway, tomorrow is the launch of Half-Life 2, and there won't be shit on it here since I have way too many games to play as it stands. HL2 will wait a couple of months, at least, so I can finish the games I really have been wanting to play. It's not that I don't want to play HL2, but I just feel less interested since I was really wanting to play it last year...delays don't sit well with me. 

Also, for my local geek friends who check out this site, I may be soon getting a Smash Melee killer.  My brother, who is currently on a vacation I would greatly like to be on in Japan, found a 4-player fighting game based on Naruto that he will be bringing back for me.  I don't know for sure how good the game is, but since it's four-player and since it's based on Naruto (one hell of an awesome anime), I figure I'll be set, and I bet I'll at least find a fellow gamer in Shadow.

So, I'm going to get in some GTA:SA before Velveeta gets home from her day job, and that way I may be able to get in some Halo 2 tonight after all. Later. 


Malik (11/16/04)  

A lot of people have crappy jobs in which they are underpaid, under appreciated, and overworked. However, reading the journal of Joe Straitiff, a former Software Engineer at EA, I see things in a different light. A good deal of workers in the game industry work their arses off to bring us the games we so desperately need. This is especially true when deadlines become closer and closer. However, what Mr. Straitiff, and many other employees at EA, went through is well beyond the norm of overworked...this is bordering on illegal (right now a class-action lawsuit brought forth by an EA employee will help to clear up if it is illegal or not). 

After reading this journal, I came to two important realizations. The first one is pretty obvious; my job may seem hard and arduous at times, but it isn't shit compared to what the programmers at EA have been going through. The second realization is that while many companies probably have some rather poor practices towards their coders, etc, I don't think I've heard of anything this tragic before. Plain and simple, I'm not buying another damned EA game until I hear about about their employee relations clearing up a hell of a lot. 

Anyway, I'm nearing the end of GTA:SA. I figure I have about 4 more missions to go before I finish. I aimed to get even closer last night, but two things came up. The first one was the introduction of the Harrier (well, the GTA equivalent to the Harrier) jet. In one of the late missions, you get access to the Harrier, with both it's awesome arsenal of missiles (complete with a lock-on) and counter-measures (in case someone decides to launch a missile back your way). However, the best feature is it's ability to land vertically and flight horizontally. In other words, you don't have to worry about finding either a parachute or a runway when you take this bad boy for a flight. In fact, the only thing you have to worry about is getting away from the thing in a hurry if you choose to land in a less than suitable location (how do you say "I'm sorry" to someone when you land your Harrier, it catches fire, and then slides down a hill into a house while exploding repeatedly). 

The other part of SA that kept me distracted was the re-introduction of turf wars. I finally have access to turf-wars again, and with my weapon skills I've gained since I lost the ability to go to war I've become addicted to owning Los Santos. I spent about 2 hours last night just waging wars and defending my turf. I figure that I want to get about 50% of the territories before I actually continue the normal missions...which means another 10 or so territories need to fall into my violent hands. 

Also, I've seen something come through quite clearly in the last few missions of GTA:SA that I feel I should bring light to. It is often said in "professional journalism" that GTA titles only encourage violence and visits to hookers while teaching the gamer to kill. We already know this is bullshit, but I saw something more important. For a game that has "no good messages", I must say the "no good messages" about the evils of drugs is actually quite refreshing. For example, when CJ sees one of his dear friends (I won't name who, due to spoilers) getting ready to like up a crack pipe, he immediately stops this friend and then goes after the drug dealer in charge of his home neighborhood. Not only that, but one of CJ's former friends who became an addict rebels against this same dealer to come back to the light side. So, I find this amusing since the media likes to say how everything about GTA games are evil and cause moral decay. 

Plus, if the anti-drug message was not enough, in SA you can even see people doing good for CJ. In previous GTA games, all of your high ranking friends always betray you in the end. However, with SA, several of your high ranking mission givers who seem like asses (and even the ones who seem cool) are actually helping you out behind the scenes. For being a game that shows the evils of everything, I think the media might, once again, be a bit off track. 

Anyway, I aim to get to the last mission tonight. Considering how bitchy the last missions were in VC and 3, I don't know if I'll actually finish the game tonight, but I'll get quite close. Then, I think I'll pick up either Metroid Prime: Echoes or Paper Mario (GCN) to get in a nice relaxing game to fill my single-player free-time (Halo 2 is a purely multi-player experience for me). I would consider Half-Life 2, but I feel like something without real weapons (like SMGs, shotguns, 9mm's, D'Eagles, AK's, and the like) after playing so much GTA:SA. 

On the note of new games; I chatted with my brother some more, and it looks like he'll be in Japan long enough to see the release of Naruto 3 (GCN), so I may be upgrading my Naruto 4-player insanity to include the Perverted Hermit (whose in number 3). Shadow, in particular, and Meat Shield, this is good news for both of you (since this may fill the Smash tedium we've been in). 


Malik (11/17/04)  

Yesterday, after posting, I immediately pulled out GTA:SA, with a solid determination to finish the game last night, no matter what. Well, this started off fine, since the first couple of missions I did last night were both easy and fun...well, almost. I did have one problem when a certain teammate (I won't name names since it's a spoiler) who must survive the mission and who was helping me with some gang warfare got hit by a car. It wasn't a car belonging to a rival gang, it wasn't a driver who got spooked by gun-shots...nope. It was just a bad driver who killed my ally with a little bumper-love. That annoyed me a bit. So, I tried the same mission again. I got more than half-way through when the same damned thing happened! It reminded me of VC's mission in which you must rescue Lance from enemy territory and he will usually manage to get ran over if he doesn't just get lost and capped. So, I tried once more and it went smoothly. So, I did a couple of other missions, each one getting harder and harder, but nothing ridiculously stupid like my allies being ran down by insane drivers (although I would accept that with the later missions due to a certain event that takes place...no spoilers, I swear). 

Then, I finally hit the final mission. At first I was having a good deal of fun. Without spoilers, here's how it went down. First you drive with a certain person to a building about 15 blocks away. This was easy enough. Then you have to steal a vehicle and bring it to a certain location. Not too hard (a few pissed off people shot at me, but I didn't care since my health was maxed and my armor started at full). Then you break into your destination building and kill some dudes. Hella easy since I've mastered the interior shooting scenes (any assault weapon at hitman level will make hallway shooting a piece of cake). Then you learn that you have 4 floors of this building to explore. Now I'm thinking of how I'll be pissed when I fail and have to repeat everything, but I get through (and the game even throws armor at you once per floor!). Then you have a boss fight, with no lights on...it was annoying since the boss had a nice shotgun, but I took him/her down with my assault riffle in record time. Then a story thing...I'm now thinking that I'm glad that the game is over, until the story progresses into...the building is now going to explode! I have a time limit to get out. Luckily I killed all the guards on the way in, but now it's dark so I'm using night vision, and there are fires so I'm having to extinguish them while swapping my night vision on and off to see what I'm doing. Then, I see all the enemies are alive again! F$%#! I'm now thinking how I'll be pissed when I die and have to re-do all of this stuff again. 

Anyway, I get out, eventually, with only about 10% of my health left (and I did pick up some armor as I exited, but the flames care not for my safety), and only 12 seconds on the timer. Now I'm beginning to think that, if I die, I'm not going to replay this tonight, but I'll do it tomorrow. Then I have a car chase in which I can't lose a certain vehicle, but I also can't touch it or the mission could end. This lasts for about 5 minutes (did I mention the city is full of lunatics at this point...imagine the "make pedestrians riot" codes from VC or GTA3...yup...it's that bad and they have some big weapons). Now I'm thinking of how I may just never play again if I lose this mission...also, about now Velveeta calls me to say she's heading home from work, so I paused the game almost afraid to un-pause since I paused just as I was striking the rear of a cop car)...I un-pause and manage to recover. Then I have to do some very precise driving (the car you're given is not exactly a Blista Compact, if you catch my meaning...ok, I'll spell it out; no handling on this rust-bucket). Then it switches to me controlling the shooting (with a piece of crap Tec-9...where the f%$& is my uzi!?), while an NPC drives. I've never finished one of these missions on the first try, and I'm now swearing like a mo-fo every time my car takes a hit (and I'm realizing that I started this damned mission about 30 minutes ago!). I finally take out everyone they throw at me (my car's health meter is, literally, only one pixle wide...). This is when I swear to never play this mission again, since I know a final boss fight is coming up in just one or two seconds...then the ending cinematics roll, the credits rolls, and the game is done...no final boss fight (thankfully, since I had no life left to my car, and I was out of health for CJ, too). 

I've seen a lot of people talking about how bad the ending is for GTA:SA, and I have to disagree. Considering the endings for 3 and VC, this is definitely the best ending yet. Also, it does wrap up most of the loose-ends without taking away any reason to have the normal post-ending free play. My only complaint is the obvious lack of Wu Zi in the final chapters of SA. There were even some positive messages in the ending chapters of GTA:SA (yes, there were...there were plenty of negative messages, but a few positives too). 

So, now that I'm done with GTA:SA, for now, I've moved on to something a lot less serious and a lot less graphic to cleanse my geek mind; Paper Mario (GCN). I haven't played much, yet, since I just finished SA last night, but so far I'm half impressed and half disappointed. A lot of the innovations are nice, and the game handles pretty well, but it feels like something is lacking from the originality that Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA) brought to the Mario RPG franchise. However, I've only played an hour worth of Paper Mario, so I'm still way too early in the game to form any conclusions. I plan to get in a couple hours of PM tonight, a couple of hours of Halo 2, and then I'll have some better conclusions on these two games (that have both brought more disappointment than I thought they would, so far). 

So, as I said, it's time for PM. 


Malik (11/18/04)  

Hotmail is finally getting around to upgrading the email accounts of the people who did not bitch to them about how they were promised increased inbox space several months ago with no return on said promise. It's pretty sad, considering that when Yahoo promised an increase in inbox space, they delivered way before the promised date, yet Hotmail has been jerking some people around for almost a half year. However, my inbox size was increased, since I had complained a few times, a couple months ago (shortly after I got into the Gmail beta and stopped giving a shit about my tiny Hotmail account). Now, with how together and with-it Hotmail is, I'm getting those nifty automatic messages, cluttering my inbox, about how my inbox size is being increased to 250MB (which is has been for two months). I just felt like I had to share how professional and precise the technology of Microsoft is being today. 

Anyway, on another email related bit of news, I found out from my brother in Japan that I'm getting Naruto 3 for the GCN. It even comes with a free forehead protector (if you understand, then I'm glad to see that someone else knows this anime)...I know, it's corny, but I don't care. Luckily, he was in Japan right when the 3rd GCN Naruto was being released, so I got the hook-up and should be good to go if I ever get my FreeLoader...which is another hassle... 

I ordered an Action Replay (with FreeLoader...which is all I'm getting it for) from Half.com a few days ago. Well, after about 55 hours (it's only supposed to take 48) of no confirmation from the seller, not even a cancelation to the order by the seller, the order got canceled by Half.com. So, there was only one more of said item on Half.com, so I had to caugh up an extra $5 for a lesser condition one. At least this seller confirmed the order in about 35 minutes...then I noticed that the feedback of said seller was the same rank as the feedback of the seller who jerked me around...then I checked it out closer and saw it was the same freakin' ass that I'm now buying from as the ass who jerked me around. I hate when people on Half.com, eBay.com, etc, try to jerk around buyers and increase the price of their auctions with fake bids, no confirmation, etc. It's a load of bullshit. If you say you're going to sell something for a given price, then be a good person and freakin' sell it for that price. Blah. 

On a random subject change, as I like to do so often, I got some really nice images of Paper Mario on the PC. I'm getting things set up for a nice review in the near future. Also, on the review type of note, I am starting to enjoy the game a bit more. There are still some flaws, but the game definitely gets better once the Prologue ends and Chapter 1 begins. I just wish you could level up your attack power when you level up...and that you'd level up more promptly (I gained my first level up about about an hour and some odd minutes of game play). Also, the hit detection is a bit weird, and the timing of button presses has some flaws (after playing Mario and Luigi for the GBA, I know how to hit A for a defensive block, and it only works about 1/4 of the time on Paper Mario...). At least the game is silly enough to keep my short attention span going. 

There isn't really much else going on for me. I didn't play Halo 2 last night since Velveeta and I took time out from our over-worked and over-stressed lives to actually cook a meal that doesn't come in a box or bag or delivery vehicle. We're thinking of playing some tonight, but only time will tell. It's not that Halo 2 is not a good game, but it just hasn't grabbed our love like Halo did...I think the cutting of the level from the E3 demo didn't help this any. 


Malik (11/19/04)  

The week is almost over, finally. So, to get the obvious out of the way, I have, like with 90% of the Fridays in a year, a new issue of Malik's Bitchings...with an unusual and special focus this week; the American legal system and those who abuse it and those who get abused by it. It's still all geek to me, but it's a more serious subject for the geek news. 

Also, with the week almost being over, it means we're quite close to the DS release. In fact, the DS comes out within the next 2 days (part of me is doubting that it'll be held off until Sunday just because of how so many gaming goods have had early scattered releases lately). I'm excited, since I just geek out whenever a new console comes out (as in, a real console...no pwN-Gage, thank you). I'm just left with a quandary of how to take screen shots from this thing. I have a nice set-up for anything else to be captured as a screen shot, and any non-handheld can be captured to video, but the DS will be a puzzle. I should figure out a solution soon, but if not, then I'll just revert to the ghetto method (digital camera images to give really crappy resolution and that wonderful grainy look...like one would see with something like GMR magazine...well, a little lower quality than that).

I'm also planning to get a good deal of Paper Mario done this weekend. I've been finding myself hating the game more and more as I play, but I find myself more and more addicted with each stage I pass (which, ultimately, lets me give PM the most back-handed compliment possible of "it's the most enjoyable piece of crap I've ever played and can't stop playing"). I got past the second chapter last night, and also captured a few more screen shots. I'm still, definitely, not far enough to review the game yet, but I'm getting things ready so I can get it reviewed in a hurry when the time is ripe. With the speed that the game progresses, I expect that I'll have this game wrapped up within the next 10 days, hands down...unless something else comes up...

...like Naruto 3 for the GCN. My brother is bringing this back from Japan in the next week, and I'm hoping that my FreeLoader will be in around then. This game has me excited like few fighting titles ever have. In fact, only Smash Melee has ever gotten me this excited before for a fighter. My brother has been skimming the instructions and emailing me some of the details, and just hearing some of it is driving me crazy with excitement...especially how you can use "Sexy no Jitsu" (if you don't understand, download some Naruto fansubs before the series gets licensed in the US, which may be quite soon from the rumors I've read).

Anyway, today was an extra early day for me since real world things came up. So, before I just go off anymore in my sleep deprived path of thinking, I'll just poof out and get some Paper Mario in (what better game for sleep dep than one so confusingly insane?).