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Malik (11/27/06)  

After almost a week of not being around to post, I am officially back from one of the most miserable vacation experiences possible. I won't dwell on the negative aspects too long, but I will say a few things.

Most of all, my misery came from trying to get my Wii. I bought it using Pay-Pal as the payment service. That was my first and most noticeable problem. There were some issues with my account (which is normal since I never liked using Pay-Pal and thus my account was last used over four years prior). That would not have been so bad if Pay-Pal would have told me. No. Instead of telling me, I had to wait for my merchant to tell me, five days later, that Pay-Pal had some issues, despite my Pay-Pal login page telling me everything was keen.

Worst of all, I tried to solve the problem by calling Pay-Pal. Let's just put it this way; I'd rather deal with customer support for my cable provider than even think of dialing Pay-Pal support. In the end, after dealing with the single most inane support rep possible in the whole of phone support, and then conferencing in with my merchant, I ended up finding a better solution. The merchant asked for my phone number, hung up on Pay-Pal's support and called me directly (to avoid Pay-Pal's stupidity) and then after I hung up on Pay-Pal, we solved the problem in about five minutes. Thank you Pay-Pal (/sarcasm).

My lesson in this; I will never use Pay-Pal again. No matter what the side effects of this statement, I swear I will never use that half-assed system again.

Now I just have to deal with the US Postal Service failing to deliver in their specified time frame. The Wii was due in last night, and was "enroute" as of yesterday afternoon...but they decided to not deliver, despite me paying for overnight express delivery and the Wii being about two miles from my home.

In the end, my Wii will be waiting for me tonight to get home from my day job. At least that, and the prospect of more snow (maybe a snow day for my first whole day of Wii-time...please...), are making today feel a little better.

My other vacation issues are not worth mentioning. However, what is worth mentioning is that Alice in Chains, even lacking Lane, can put on one hell of a sweet concert. I saw them on Friday, and it was easily one of the best hard rock concerts I've seen ever.

The show involved them paying some hard and heavy rock for 1/3 of the show, putting up a tribute to their fallen front man, and the show resuming with the stage set up for an unplugged like experience. After another thirty minutes of acoustic rock, the stage was set up again for heavy shit and the show ended with a hell of a lot of energy. Easily the best night I've ever spent hanging with people from my work (who are also the biggest metal heads I it's natural to see this show with work people).

Anyway, I spent most of the fun times of my vacation with either Guitar Hero 2 (naturally) or with Final Fantasy V Advance. I'm now about three hours from finishing FFV...assuming I stop trying to master jobs. That assumption will probably not be fulfilled, so I've got an easy ten plus hours left to this game.

Despite how annoying and buggy the GBA port of FFIV was, FFV is ported far better than almost any SNES to GBA port I've played (which is saying something since most GBA games worth mentioning seem to be SNES ports). In particular, the game plays incredibly smoothly and without any real flaws. However, to round out the awesome experience, the game also includes four classes never before seen in FFV...or any other Final Fantasy game (at least in abilities...not in name necessarily).

Sadly, the necromancer (one of these jobs) requires the player to beat the game to use. However, the other three are found right before the final dungeon is the only place left to go. These include an oracle who can predict the future (and get one hell of a magic ability boost), the gladiator (who is the tank to end all tank classes) and the cannoneer (who can mix items like the chemist but to make offensive splendor). Best of all, the oracle (I forget if that's the real might be sage or seer) gives the ability to increase ABP (job experience points) earned by 1.5 times and the cannoneer has the same ability for character experience.

Anyway, I should finish FFV Advance sometime in the next week...assuming the Wii doesn't claim my soul. If I get through FFV, I'll have a review of it up in the week following my dismissal of the game.

Now I'm going back to my first day of work in over a week...and a long day of waiting to play my Monkey Ball, Zelda, and Trauma Center for the Wii that has been sitting in my home for the last week waiting for my precious Wii to arrive.   In conclusion...f#@$ Pay-Pal.


Malik (11/29/06)  

With the unusual snow storm that hit the Seattle area on Monday night, I figured I wouldn't be in to work the next day. With the severe chill following the next day, it became certain. The one sad part of this, and this is why my post for yesterday is non-existent, is that I could not get out to a computer store to buy a new keyboard. Well, the roads have cleared enough for me to go to my day job this morning, and thus I have a good keyboard to type at. I'm back.

Before I get into anything, I just want to say this is sad and frightens me. Why? Well, I think that's my question as well. Not "why does this frighten me?" as much as why would anyone be so obsessed with their gamer score on XBox Live. The gamer score is probably my single least favorite part of the Live "life-style". Between the fact that it does nothing and the fact that some people actually seem to care, I am torn on what to think. I know for a fact that my gamer score is low. It's not because I don't play games, but rather that I will not force myself to swallow an additional minute on a game to get 50 points when I feel like I'm done with the game.

Case in point, I could have gotten some more on Oblivion and Tomb Raider Legend. Both games were not overly difficult, and both games have some additional gamer points that would've taken me only a few minutes to get. However, I honestly cannot care enough to go for them. I beat both of those games, and I doubt I'd ever go back for more. The games were fun...but when I felt like I completed them, I was done.

On to a completely different note...I got my Wii on Monday. It was a rough journey, of the mental kind, as I fought with eBay and USPS issues. However, in the end, I now have my Wii (in perfect working order), Monkeyball, Trauma Center, Wii Sports, and mother-f#@$ing Zelda! All is good in my least as good as it could be with my extra Wii-mote, Nunchuk, and classic controller all on backorder.

First of all, as I always thought I would, I love Wii Sports. This game freakin' rocks. It's simple, it's visuals are not astounding (but the simplicity works wonders...see Katamari for a good example of this), and it takes very little effort to learn. However, the feeling you get the following day is what it's all about. In other words, while it may be "just a game", it will give you a work out unlike any other "exercise" game.

I've only tried baseball, tennis, and bowling...however, those three games, for about three hours of total play on Monday night, have left my entire left arm (left handed be me) sore with the feeling that real sport action would give me. Between swinging for the fences, hitting a nice volley, and knocking down pins left and right, this game will give you a work out. Plus, according to the security dude at my work, boxing will do all of this even more.

Maybe gaming has the stereotype of resulting in fat and lazy youth, but Wii Sports may be just the solution for this. I feel exhausted, sore, and like I did something actually healthy and exercise related despite a nice blizzard in my local surroundings.

Anyway, beyond Wii Sports, I got in some time with Trauma Center. This game, if you liked the DS version, is awesome. It is fast, frantic, and will require some damned steady hands. In fact, with my caffeine fueled life, I have to hold the Wii-mote with two hands for most of the game. However, the game is nothing short of fun and addictive. A nice blend of fast thinking and dexterous hand control. The only issue with this game is that the ranking system (C for a bad operation, B for a good one, A for excellent, etc) is very skewed. I did great on a few (with the game constantly telling me so) as I scored "C" grades, but any bad performance seemed guaranteed to score me a "B". Go figure...

Monkeyball, on the other hand, is so far feeling like crap. The one player game is a pain in the ass since a perfectly level Wii-mote is required to keep still. The slightest tilt forward or backwards will roll you one of those directions, and the slightest twist left or right will roll you in those directions. This makes for a frustrating and tedious experience. For Monkeyball, the only good control seems to be the GCN analogue.

I would comment on the Monkeyball party games, but I can't say much with only one controller. So far, however, I must say that Monkey Target has suffered a fair deal (my previous favorite party game from Monkeyball 2), and most of the games I've tried are just not too enjoyable with the Wii-mote sensitivity.

As for the big game...Zelda is fan-mother-f@#$ing-tastic! This is the game that will sell the Wii (as if I needed to say that), and it will remain the best selling Wii game for a long time to come. Zelda is fun, easy to get into, familiar (despite the controller changes), and has one hell of a fun story this time around. I have over six hours on this game (what do you think I did while trapped at home in the ice storm of yesterday? Zelda, that's what!) already and only want more.

I've seen two big complaints about this game, on message boards and reviews. The first is that it's all been done before. As for's a sequel to the Zelda franchise. Is it supposed to be a big surprise when a sequel is like the previous games in the franchise? I hope not. It's like saying GTA:SA sucked because it was like the previous GTA games. It's like saying Sonic 3 was a bad game because it was like Sonic 1 and 2. This is nothing to complain about unless you simple don't like Zelda which case you can simply not play it.

The other big issues seems to be the visuals. I don't know...maybe my Wii is broken (in a good way) or my Zelda disk is bad (in a good way), but I think this game is beautiful. Those who say it doesn't look better than Wind Waker are full of shit. Those who say it doesn't look as good as a 360 or PS3 game are full of shit (in a different way). The game is for the Wii, and thus it will look like a gorgeous SD/ED game. It won't look HD quality, and there's a good reason; the Wii is not an HD system. If you honestly have a problem with this level of quality on a launch/first generation Wii game, then you are suffering from vision problems (as in, it's hard to see with your head up your ass). The game is amazing to behold, and the visuals are nothing short of smooth SD/ED perfection. I know Wii visuals will get better with time, since this is a launch game, and I honestly have trouble believing the game is so damned beautiful.

Anyway, the game, itself, is addictive, fun, and really pulls the player into the journey. In other words, it's all we would expect to see from a Zelda game. Best of all, the use of the Wii controller mechanics are perfectly executed. When you go fishing, you hold the Wii-mote like a fishing pole while you hold the nunchuk like the reel. When it's time to bring in your catch, you swirl the nunchuk like your hand would move to reel in a catch. When you are fighting, a wave of the Wii-mote will swing your sword (or make you bite as a wolf), while the nunchuk can be waved to cause the old-school whirl attack. Simple controls with addictive game play...I have awaited this game for far too long.

The only issues I have with the Wii so far are pretty minor. For one thing, there's no real online. This includes those infamous Wii Channels. There's no news or weather channels, there's no Internet browser...yet. The whole main menu on the Wii, besides making your Mii avatar and downloading (for a cost) classic games, is empty and pointless...unless you want to view pictures off of an SD card (which does work nicely...but it's not as nice as my PC). Hopefully Nintendo will rectify this situation soon.

The other issue I have is with the Wii-mote speaker. If you were running the Wii off of your built in TV speakers, it wouldn't be bad. However, I run my Wii off of my hella nice surround sound system...and in comparison, the Wii-mote speaker is grainy and pathetic. It almost takes me out of the action to swing my sword in Zelda and hear wonderful noises on the surround sound system...while this grainy sound blares out of my Wii-mote. I might as well have a friend next to me making cheesy sound effects while I play the game.

Anyway, for system usability, I still say Microsoft is ahead this generation. However, if I was forced to grade the whole new generation off of one game...Nintendo would win with Zelda. There's no real contest. However, for the library out now and due out before New Years, I would once again give the 360 the nod (with it's one additional year of life). In the end, I think this will be an awesome generation to be a part of the gaming world...assuming Nintendo's third party support continues to grow and the console exclusives for the PS3 and 360 continue to dissolve into cross platform titles.


Malik (11/30/06)  

I won't go into details, but for the second time in a week, I feel like saying this; F#@$ you, Pay-Pal! You can suck my balls! Between the hassles caused by their inept system and even more inept service department I had my Wii greatly delayed. However, their poorly designed interface nearly caused me to go into the red last night. I am just sick of them. I swear, as I did on Monday, I will never use Pay-Pal again.

On that note, another big "f#@$ you" to the management at my apartment (since I'm only using facts, I'll name names...Cedar Terrace Apartments). Nothing like receiving an envelope on my door with a candy cane attached. I open the envelope and find a notice that my lease needs to be an 17.98% increase in rent each month! Holy shit! This is not some subtle increase. This is nearly $200 freakin' dollars each month. That's almost a Wii each month in increased rent. Plus...that candy cane just seems like the most inappropriate thing to include on this envelope. What is it supposed to say? "Merry Christmas! Our gift to you is 'PAY US NOW!'" Wow...just wow...

Needless to say, Velveeta and I are now in the market to find a new home. Sadly, we cannot find one, get packed, and move before December 31st (the last day of our lease), so we'll be stuck at six months of financial hell...and then the hell of packing, moving, unpacking, all while paying deposits and searching for a new place. I hate to say it, but I can even see a condo in our future.

Let's get back to the topic of this site...

The National Institute on Media and the Family gave out their annual grades. I really don't know if anyone gives a flying shit about a goody-goody group that seems more about being overly critical and way too broad in their assessments (all specialty retailers of games earned a collective F...despite how each specialty retailer is...well...special) than they are concerned about addressing the problem in a proper setting. Giving grades is nice...if retailers, console makers, and all of the other grade receivers were NIMF's students...however, that is not the case.

Once a group is independent of a critical evaluator, the only obvious thing that this evaluator can do is obvious; shut the hell up and get hands on involvement. Actually, I should say that NIMF just needs to shut up about grades and make their involvement known. If you want to critique someone and don't make your actions to "help" them tackle the "problem" known...well, you will lose all credibility.

At least they have started to admit that parents need to get more involved in the gaming habits of children. In fact, more than that, parents need to get more involved in all aspects of raising their children. Despite what many of us what to admit, parents are much larger role models on their children than most people would acknowledge. It's only when a child has a good home life, filled with both freedom and structure, that a child will thrive. Anyway, now I'm sounding preachy, so I'll get off this topic.

Anyway, I think I've given up, for now at least, on Final Fantasy V Advance. Between the newness of the Wii, the addiction of Trauma Center, and the "holy shit!" factor of Zelda, I simply cannot keep up with anything that doesn't display on my 52" TV. In fact, anything that's not in 52 inches with a magical waving controller attached is down for the count in my eyes. I do realize I was hoping for a FFVA review this week or next, but I may just put it off. Either that, or I may write one despite not finishing the game (well, I did beat the SNES version, and I am in the final dungeon of the GBA version right now). I know, it's not 100% cool...but with how far I am into the game, and after beating the previous versions before, I feel like it would be 99.99% cool. That's cool enough for me.

Anyway, that review can only come along assuming that Zelda frees me from he tight grasp. Zelda: Twilight Princess is nothing short of the most enjoyable Zelda experience I ever had. Well, as long as you don't count the sumo wrestling (that was just bitchy) and the jousting in which the game literally gives you instructions at the last second (in a way in which you cannot read it or you lose a heart). Beyond those two minor issues, I've had 9 solid and fun hours of Zelda. In fact, I wish I was playing as I type this...

...which is why this post ends here. If you were wondering about how reliable the average professional review of Zelda is (average between 9 and 10 out of 10); they are spot on. Best game of the year, hands down.


Malik (12/1/06)

It's interesting seeing what people are saying about the PS3 this early in it's lifespan. For example, Namco has gone on the record of saying it will take sales of about 500,000 units (games) to turn a profit on a PS3 game. That's a large number of games, considering how few of the consoles are available in each region (or will be as of the end of this new month and this year). Basically, Namco is saying that a new game at the PS3 launch would require more than one game unit per console in order to turn a profit.

Yes, I am aware that people keep guess-timating how many PS3s will be in the US by the end of 2006. However, I see most of these guesses being crushed in one month. Sony just does not have the production upscaled enough to meet these types of goals. When you throw in that many PS3s will have to be split to Japan and that many are needed for a good European launch (and a bad launch, after the massive delays, could cost them that region without even a single bit of effort), it's obvious that the production pipeline, as it stands, is just not strong enough.

Plus, when you consider the business roles being shifted in Sony's senior management, it's looking rather interesting. Ok. I'll face facts...this type of news actually looks very boring and tedious. However, that's why there are analysts in the world. They can take the boring shit and give us their personal views on it. For example, you can look at Yuta Sakurai at Nomura Securities.

When Kaz Hirai took over the leadership of the Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) group, it was seen as a sign of Sony's lack of confidence in Ken Kutaragi's efforts in launching the PS3. Makes sense, considering that Kutaragi has launched a console with numbers that make many think of the terms "limited edition". Plus, with the obvious slight towards Europe, SCE is not standing in an ideal position. Throw in this whole dealio and it's effect on exclusive PS3 titles becoming cross-platform titles also on the 360 and...well...things have definitely looked better for Sony.

True, there is plenty of time for Sony to turn things around. It's only been a couple of weeks since the PS3 launched, and it's hard to form a real opinion on a system after it's typical five year lifespan has seen only 2 weeks. However, if the thinking of Yuta Sakurai makes any sense, then it may be the final console generation for SCE to be in the hardware side of things.

While Hirai is a more software focused person, I still think it's too quick to say anything about the next generation of consoles seeing Sony as a software publisher and not a console maker. Sony is not Sega, and there are simply no real lines to connect these two companies. For example, Sega was not just a game publisher...they were game developers as well. Sega had a number of very strong and famous franchises (Sonic, Shining Force) and they had a good track record of creating fun and addictive games. Sony does not have any of this.

What I personally see as the outcome of this generation is one of two possibilities. On one hand, Sony could score a massive hit with the PS3. To do this, Sony would have to do some serious hard work in the second six months of the PS3's life. The first six months are always a crap shoot, since launches are never as smooth as one would hope for. Even the Wii, which had a better launch than the PS3, is lacking in both consoles and accessories. So, it'll be those second set of six months (after the consoles should be available in stores without a pre-order) that set the trend for the system. It's also in those second six months that the good games start to show up (like Saint's Row, Dead Rising, Enchanted Arms, and Gears of War all did on the 360). If things do pull together for the PS3, then I see a PS4 showing up (despite Kutaragi's claims) in about five to six years (not ten).

The other option is that Sony keeps losing money and fans. This scenario would entail Sony not having a good showing for the first two years. If this happens, then it could be game over for Sony. Well, not for Sony, but for their SCE division. If this happens, I doubt they would remain in game publishing even. I would see them trying to go back to the basics (their music, movie, and home entertainment hardware roots). This would make the most sense since it would allow Sony a good chance to re-focus their efforts and to possibly save themselves from the financial damage that (in this scenario) the PS3 would put them through. Then, maybe a few generations down the line, Sony may jump back into the console life.

Also, I lay a lot of faith in my assumption that most console makers are full of shit when they call this the ten year generation. I also doubt those who say this is the final generation of consoles. Afterall, how many times have we heard that about personal computers? "The PC will be dead in two years!" No. Consoles for gaming and computers for...well...everything...they will both be a part of the modern life for many years to come. By many years, I should add that you could easily substitute the words "decades", "scores", or even "centuries". We are a gaming civilization, and we will not give them up...we will just have them evolve with the times.

Ok. That was some heavy and serious talk. I didn't mean to end the week like that, but it seemed right. It's better than me just saying "f#@$ Pay-Pal!" again. By the way...f#@$ Pay-Pal! That felt good.


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