Malik (12/06/04)  

So, after a couple of weeks, I finally finished Super Mario 64 DS. Finished, as in I beat the final incarnation of Bowser. I still have a few dozen more stars to unlock, if I choose, and an additional mini game to unlock. In fact, despite how much I hate "collection" style games, I'm still playing since I managed to beat the game without even entering 2 of the worlds (the high peaks or whatever the mountains are called...such a bitchy world...and the desert). Maybe the game is easier this time around, but the N64 game found me quitting before I ever got enough stars to finish the game out of frustration. Personally, I think the touch screen controls just work better for the game than the N64 analogue stick ever did...and the incentive of the annoyingly addictive mini-games. 

So, after finishing Mario 64, I...played some more of those two ignored worlds. Then I got around to some Metroid Prime 2. The more I play this game, the more I realize this is the worst excuse for a sequel I've ever seen. This is as much a sequel as Counter Strike is a sequel to Half-Life. In other words, MP2 is a mod to MP. The equipment is almost identical, the enemies are quite similar, the environments, engine, weapons, etc, are all the same. Yes, the light beam is the plasma beam and the dark beam is the ice beam. It's that freakin' simple. There is no real new equipment (beyond screw attack...and maybe the final weapon). There is almost no creativity to this game. I'm enjoying it, none-the-less, but I can't help but feel that I'm playing the same game I played a couple years back. It's like having an old house, painting it a new color, and then calling it a "new" house. It's the same shit, just with a new paint job to it. 

I finally finished getting the dark suit and I can't help but feel like that was the most half-assed power-up in a Metroid title. It allows you to travel Dark Aether without taking as much damage from the dark environment...key words being "as much", because you still get pwned by the environment. In fact, to make up for your increased "defenses" you have to travel the deadly darkness for longer periods of time without a safe haven. Whoopidy-doo. Plus, you get a slight armor boost, but the enemies just become stronger, so it's the same shit, just with a new look on Samus. 

Also, after beating the first of the three main goals in the game (these goals being to restore three temples to their former power), you get stuck with one of the most annoying features seen in a Metroid game...first you restore the temple in one world, then you find a portal (which is far away) to the other world, then you restore the temple in that world (walking all the way from the portal to the temple), and then you walk back to the main temple to report your success to go off to do the same shit in another world. It's like having to keep going from point A to B to A to B to A to B to A, blah blah, but it's in a different world each time so Retro can say that instead of being repetitious, the game is having you explore new territories. I still, however, will call it repetitive and annoying as all hell. 

I'm not frustrated enough to quit MP2, and I'm still having fun, but it's the type of fun that a 3D platformer will give you...frustrating, annoying, and one that gives a strong urge to destroy a controller or two. I just hope things start to improve...especially the limited ammo on all of your weapons (except the standard beam weapon). There is nothing like the method MP2 uses to get ammo refills; to get dark ammo, you must kill stuff with your light beam, and the opposite for light ammo. This is annoying on it's own, until you realize that everything on Dark Aether is almost immune to dark shots, but you'll run out of light ammo in a hurry. So, you'll be stuck with either wasting missiles (which will be replenished far quicker than your light ammo), charging your light beam to fire a normal shot (which is how you do it when out of ammo), or trying to kill something with your dark beam, which does nothing to your foes. It wouldn't be so bad, except you're limited to (at first) only 50 shots of light and dark ammunition. This isn't too bad, except a charged shot costs 5 shots, so a boss will burn down a full clip of ammo in about...maybe 10 seconds. I've been playing the game, as much as possible, without using either of the light or dark beams (except to open locked doors), and am finding it boring as hell. Half the fun of Metroid games have been finding (and using) new weapons. There's no point in using the new weapons since you'll only run out of ammo. In fact, I'm not even using these new weapons on the bosses, since each boss has so limited of weak points that you'll only waste a precious 5 ammo charge shot on it's bullet-proof shell, armor, or whatever it has...shit, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that, if anything, MP must be the successor to MP2 since MP is just more fun to play and has far fewer aggravating features. 

Anyway, I'll quit my bitching about MP2...for now...I won't even go into any of the morph ball areas that require some bomb jumps and there are no rails so you'll blow yourself off of so many ledges...or how the spring ball would be a far better upgrade than the boost ball...won't even go into it. 


Malik (12/07/04)  

Last night I almost gave up on Metroid Prime 2. I faced off against the Boost Ball Guardian. Maybe it's just me, but I think Retro has gone a little overboard with trying to boost the difficulty. I mean making a game hard is one thing, but making a battle that requires as much luck as skill is something on the stupid side of things. I did beat this boss, and from what I understand from some message boards, it means I beat the most annoying boss in the game. I just don't see why this big of a challenge is coming from a minor mini-boss and not from a major or end game boss battle. Blah. 

I'm hoping to stick with MP2 all the way through the game, but if more instances of relying on luck come along, I may just toss out my idea of finishing this game. I hated the idea from MP that bosses should function like puzzles (by which I mean you don't hurt a boss to kill it, but you rather must attack all of the weak points...I prefer to rely on my gun skills in a shooter type game than to rely on my skills of scanning all of the environment and then tackling the obvious weak points). 

Speaking of games I want to play to completion, KOTOR2 has arrived. I personally don't know when I'll get it...actually, I should say, I don't think I'll have it for a couple of weeks. Instead of my usual attitude of only playing one new release at a time, I'm holding off on KOTOR2 since I need a good Christmas present for someone to get me beyond the standard of me getting everything ahead of time...what do you get the geek who has everything, unless he stops buying everything? 

Part of me is concerned that this game is ready so soon after the original was released, but another part of me is excited since the original was so well made. I guess only time can tell if it is as good as it's predecessor. I do know, however, that I have some issues, already, with the concepts and themes behind this game. I personally cannot see any valid reason to have the Ebon Hawk and HK return (which is what early preview info has eluded to) and have it fit in the story if you are not going to play the same character as you did in the original KOTOR. It just doesn't make sense from a narrative standpoint. In fact, the only way it makes sense is to either appeal to the fanboys of the original (Look! We have HK and the Hawk, so you'll love this game, just like the original!) or from a technological/programming standpoint (we wanted to rush this project, so we could save time by reusing some characters and locations). Either way, it will probably look pretty cheesy when seen in the actual game...especially if they try to explain it to fit into the story. 


Malik (12/08/04)  

Another day, another reason to hate Metroid Prime 2. It's not that I have any intentions, yet, of quitting this game, but when it finally breaks my will to play, I'll have plenty of reasons to back-up my decision to quit. Pretty much, my latest reason comes down to this...last night I played some more and came across another minor boss that would quit my ass without any real reason. This boss was the one that guards the Gravity Boost (a pretty cool power up). The boss, itself, is actually pretty easy, however the mechanics for MP2 make this easy boss into a frustrating encounter. Mainly it's how you fire a super missile. Like with MP, to fire a SM you need to charge your normal beam and then hit the missile button...then you, with MP2 (never was this bad on MP), you hit the button again...then you hit it again...then you button mash that damned button. If you're lucky, your SM will fire after only a few presses, and if not, then this boss will kill you as you keep not firing off a SM and it keeps hitting you. I know it's not my controller not working right (it worked fine, that same Y button) when I threw some people left and right in Naruto 3 an hour later. 

However, at least the Gravity Boost was cool after I finished the boss. This power-up let's you move normal in water without having to obtain a new armor (since MP 1&2 both have only so few armor upgrades, it would take far too long to wait for another suit to get this movement ability). However, beyond that, it allows a third jump underwater in which you get a little boost of air coming out of this new device. So, in the end, unlike MP or any other prior Metroid title, you can actually move better in water than out of water when all is said and done. This is nice since when you get water movement in other Metroid titles you still have a dread of the water since it still is too hard to handle compared to air based combat. 

My one big complaint, on top of the crappy SM ability (which was always really smooth in Super Metroid since it was an actual separate weapon system...that is how it should be since charging a weapon should not make an unrelated weapon, like a missile, better), the item pick-ups are too well hidden in this game. I mean it's one thing to have to blast a secret hole in the wall to find a missile pack, but it's another when the pack is in the open but the camera refuses to show you it...like in on of the ball mazes I went through last night. It makes this overly long title (MP2 is heavy on the time consumption factor) into something that is just a time waster as you have to roll into every single nook and crack and hole, even those you cannot see, just to find enough missile upgrades to take on the next boss. It's like Retro decided that you should only use your normal charge beam for anything in the game since missile upgrades are too hard to find and your ammo for the light and dark beams is not just limited but also hard to obtain refills for (kill something with dark for light ammo...that's all well and good unless you're in the dark world where the dark beam doesn't do shit and you're in desperate need of light ammo). 

At least I played a true masterpiece along with my crappy MP2 playing last night. I played more Naruto 3 for the GCN (my GCN has never seen so much love at one time before). I stopped playing for a long while since I couldn't figure out how to unlock any more characters (you start with only about 25% of them unlocked and I got another 15% before I couldn't unlock anymore). Well, while showing one of Velveeta's friends the game last night, I found a mission had unlocked itself since I last played (you buy new missions, and I had beaten all of the unlocked ones as of the last time I played, yet a new one unlocked without me buying it...maybe a glitch? Who knows?) and by beating it I started to get new stuff to buy, including a new character. Maybe the game will show me a little more love now. 

I also can't help but realize that I've neglected Sky Gunner since I bought it a couple weeks back. I really want to play this game, but it's hard to do when I'm determined to beat MP2 (sorta a matter of personal pride) and I need to play this strange Naruto game that speaks a different language and thus I have more of a challenge from understanding what I'm doing than from the actual game play (which is saying a lot since this game can, and does, get hard). I'll probably get to Sky Gunner soon enough, however, since I can't buy KOTOR2 (it'll be a Christmas gift...so, it's on hold for the next few weeks) and I can't guarantee how long I'll be able to suffer the torment and abuse that MP2 is throwing my way. 


Malik (12/09/04)  

I decided to take a break from all things Metroid last night. I figure with how much this game is trying to annoy me, the only way I'd stand a chance of finishing it is to take a little time off...not much time, but maybe a day or two. 

So, I picked up, after owning it for a couple weeks, Sky Gunner. Well, here's another game to annoy me. At least it doesn't ruin the game play, but there are some rather annoying features to this game. The biggest complaint I can think of is the money system. As you play, you'll be rewarded for shooting down large groups of enemy planes with one shot (which means with a missile). However, at the same time, you're being penalized (in terms of the money you make from each mission) for each missile you fire. Normally, since you don't spend this money to buy new missiles or planes or whatever, I would just take this as a crappy score system that seems to penalize efficiency. However, as you complete a mission, the other two playable characters are also earning money (and beating you into the ground). Occasionally you'll be rewarded for making the most money in a missions with something like a new engine (to boost your plane's stats) or whatever. However, the game doesn't give you a break. 

I'll probably become more efficient with my money making skills with time, but I just find this practice annoying for now. It reminds me of any other game in which a score system is tacked on for no good reason...like any of the Rogue Squadron (Star Wars) games in which you try to get a bronze, silver, or gold medal from each mission. Just like with these SW games, Sky Gunner is set in a world in which you just want to accomplish your mission to save your home from invaders/oppressive agents. Why the hell would these characters care about making money when the first priority is to keep their jobs (and their lives)? Blah. 

Besides the crappy score element, SG is really fun. This is the type of flying game that only comes along once every generation (on average). It's the same type of light hearted but addictive flying action you'd find with Crimson Skies of the classic Star Wars flight sims (like the original X-Wing). Sadly, with how this game went under everyone's' radar, it makes any chance of these types of games coming back with a stronger effect on the market slim to none...hence we only see them once every generation (well, twice this generation with CS, but none last generation...). 

Anyway, I'm probably going to put Metroid Prime 2 on hold until I play some more SG and a little more Naruto 3. The dark and realistic world of Metroid Prime 2, along with the annoying features and the bitchy boss fights, is just too much to keep taking in when there are some more light-hearted games to break up the serious atmosphere. Plus, soon I should have Gai (Naruto 3) unlocked... 

Also, for those of us who are enjoying the DS or finding the hate of the media a little strong, here's something interesting from Gamespot.com. Many news sites have bashed the DS without base. I say if you don't like a game or a system, then go ahead and tell it like you see it...but only after you have your facts. For example, Gamespot had previously stated how the DS prospects in Japan were looking less than desirable with only (ONLY?) 40 people standing in line on the launch day at one store...a launch day that was also a work day after the release of Dragon Quest 8 (which would naturally steal some thunder from all other games/systems for the week...or ever month), and at stores that opened incredibly early (up to 4 or more hours early). Also, this was a heavily pre-ordered system so people could afford to not stand in line at dawn and just wait until after work to get their DS. Anyway, this article at Gamespot just goes on to say how the DS has sold over 500,000 (counting pre-orders that are waiting to be picked up) in Japan and over 500,000 in the US. That's one million in less than a month. This is not a bad and slow sale...this is insanity. Anyway, I'm all for a media outlet bashing something, but only if there's an actual reason. Jumping to a quick conclusion based off of a quick glance is bull shit (you didn't see people standing in line? Maybe people pre-ordered). It's like some of my friends who have seemed shocked that I would get a DS (since it's a trendy piece of crap...at first glance), yet these people never even tried out the abundant in store demos. Blah. 


Malik (12/10/04)  

Well, as I type this, I'm in a slight state of haste.  My head is pounding from the fun of the end of the year crap that life throws my way...don't worry, it's not geek related (it's work and shopping), so I won't go into that here.

Last night I continued my abstaining from Metroid.  This time it wasn't as much me not wanting to play as it was first an addiction to Naruto.  I had that wonderful compulsion that said I needed to unlock Gai Sensei.  While I failed in that (well, he is now unlocked in the store, but I need about 5000 yen to purchase him), I did unlock a couple of other characters and a few missions.  I have to say the mission to unlock Gai is a bit of a let down.  In said mission you have to eliminate all three of his students (Tenten, Rock Lee, and Neji...not quite in that order).  I was expecting an epic battle of three on one, but instead you face one after another, which leaves little room to actually fail.  It was a definite let down (in terms of challenge) when compared to the mission to unlock Haku (who must defeat 15 clones of Zabuza...with three appearing at a time).  At least the missions are hella fun, and then prospect of so many people to unlock is always good for a fighter of this caliber.

Also, I have a new issue of Malik's Bitchings.  Things this week turned out funny, in terms of my free time, so I had to keep things shorter than I'd like.  However, I, as always, feel that these topics are pretty important in the scope of how geek life is turning out with each successive bit of gaming news.  That would be the whole reason for my Bitchings...if you wanted to know why I do this (that and it's a good outlet for any frustrations I feel towards the direction and evolution of geek life).  There are many important aspects to geek life that pass by with little notice.  However, with time, these aspects become huge changes that can greatly affect how gaming turns out.  It's not like my complaints will change what happens, but it serves as a good reminder of where we are heading.

Anyway, as I said, my head is a-pounding, so I'll drop off early today.  Happy weekends to all.