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Malik (12/12/05)  

It is an interesting day for game news. Before touching the weird or pointless, let me share what may be the best RPG related news of the year; Square Enix has not forgotten about the much loved, but underappreciated, Valkyrie Profile. SE is currently working on both making a new game in the VP franchise (which wasn't a franchise until now) for the PS2 and a port of the original for the PSP. Damn! 

While these games are known to be in the works, there is some bad news. Currently there is no announced plans to port either to the US. While this doesn't mean that we won't get them, it doesn't mean too much on it's own...especially since VP was pretty much a cult game in the US. So, hopefully, SE will see that Americans are more interested in RPGs than ever and hopefully they will see that the American PSP is definitely lacking in that department. As for the PS2 title...I'd give better odds of it coming to the US than the PSP port (Japan got a PSP port of Tales of Eternia, which looks doubtful for the put those pieces together). If new announcements are made about this, I'll definitely keep you all posted. 

As for the stupid news...Jack Thompson is back. This time he's happy to announce that a teen from Texas who had made a threatening phone call to him has been arrested. This kid faces up to a year in jail and a $4000 fine. All I can say to this is the all important phrase "shut up!". I don't mean to Jack (although I am not saying otherwise). I mean the people who think they are doing good by trying to threaten this annoyance. Seriously, if you don't like Jack Thompson, then you're not alone. However, the solution is not to keep trying to egg him on. The true solution is to shut up and ignore him. Karma tends to sort out the rest (like his expulsion for the murder case of three police officers). 

If you don't remember, there was once a Simpsons episode (the same one which had the 3D claymation-style Homer) in which advertisements (billboards and neon signs) came to life. They terrorized Springfield and caused general mayhem and death. The only solution to these ads was to ignore them. As it was stated on the episode, if you ignore them, they tend to go away. The same is true of Jack Thompson. If we simply ignore the guy, no matter how we feel about him, it will be harder for him to make himself into front page news. In fact, if we just ignore him, he won't have the ability to turn himself into a martyr of sorts anymore. That's why I beg all of you to simply ignore the guy and stop trying to egg him on. It's like with a child who keeps acting up...if you give in to paying attention to this child, it looks at the attention as a positive reinforcement...but if you ignore the kid, then it usually becomes a lot better (might not be perfect, but it won't get worse). 

Last of all, for the news, is that the 360 is now out in all three of Microsoft's targeted launch regions. Sadly, the system is not getting the love in Japan that it got in North America and Europe. However, it still sounds like it's doing a little better than some would have expected. Instead of all of the systems sitting on shelves, a good deal did sell. However, unlike the other regions, Japan has some 360s on shelves waiting for a prospective shopper, or two. 

It's not that big of a surprise that it didn't sell out. Especially since this is both the country that didn't exactly gobble up the XBox and it's the country with fewer launch games aimed towards their chosen pleasures. The more anticipated Japanese launch titles fell apart (like DoA4). Hopefully things will change some as RPGs start to make their way down the 360 retail chains. I don't say that as a Microsoft fanboy, which I'm not, but as someone who really would love to see a Japanese endorsement of something that is not shaped like a George Foreman Grill with a Batarang controller and a price tag that only Batman could afford. It's only through a good level of competition and interest in Japan that we can hope to see a large influx of Japanese developed 360 titles. 

Anyway, I'm still being obsessed with Dragon Quest 8. I'm now nearing 70 hours in the game and definitely am addicted. I need to finish this game before I'll be able to give any real love to the 360 (which I haven't even really touched for a couple of weeks). Luckily, I do think I'm getting near the end...which is great since I'm also starting to see that this plot is no longer pulling me in. It was a fun plot to play out, until I realized that my party is a bunch of lazy whores. In more RPGs, you progress through the plot but succeeding and failing at different goals while obtaining more success than defeat. Well, in DQ8, you only f#@% up ever goal you face. The actual plot of the game revolves around preventing the deaths of 7 bloodlines, and I've now seen almost all of them wiped out as my characters stand by and watch it happen. It's hard to remain motivated when I know that the next bloodline I try to preserve will end up another splat in the path of the true enemy. I just hope I can finish and the addiction doesn't wear off before this aspect of the plot gets to be too much to bear. 


Malik (12/13/05)  

For those who got excited about FFXI hitting the 360, it looks like the beta, as investigated by IGN, is not offering too much good news. The game, or at least the beta, sounds like a chore in itself. While the 360 may brag about being next-gen, it sounds like Square Enix saved all expenses to make the game last-gen in feel. It's slow, tedious, and it consumes almost half of your free HDD space. Worst of all, it sounds like the annoyances of trying to use a PC game on a console is here and in full effect. For people like me, who realize that just starting a three year old MMO this late in it's life is pointless, this can be seen as nothing important. However, if this is any indication of Square Enix's future support of the 360, this is nothing but bad news. 

Another bit of interesting news for those who are stuck in the past of PC games; King's Quest is coming back. After a lack of King's Quest games for the better part of a decade, Phoenix Online Studios (never heard of them? There's a good goes by the word of "indie") started to make a free new trilogy of KQ games. After Vivendi heard about this effort, they initially tried to shut it down, since they do own the Sierra franchises like KQ. However, it looks like the game is now being pushed with Vivendi's blessings and it may come out in it's first chapter starting next year. If this holds to be true, those few people who still care about classic PC adventure games (including myself) will have something good to look forward to in the next few months. More than that, if Phoenix holds up to what it originally announced, it should be distributed for free. Good news all around in this one. I definitely aim to have some more news on this trilogy as it's release gets closer at hand. 

Well, as you can probably tell, I don't have much to share in terms of game news or what I've been up to (I'll give you a's the 8th game in a series and has devoured my soul), so things will be kept brief today. However, I figure it's as good of a time as any to say that I'll be moving in about a month. I aim to make this into a long and drawn out process (I'll have my new place and my current place for an overlapping period of about three weeks to ensure a smoother transition). However, during that time, starting around January 14th, updates may be slow and scattered. I hope to only have to miss a few days during the transition, but depending on Comcast (who supplies my online...for better or worse) and when they can get my Internet access transferred, things may get bumpy. My ultimate goal is to have the majority of the move fall on a weekend, and this should limit any problems with postings, but like I said, Comcast will have the final say in this all. Just consider this your first warning of bumpy times to come. 


Malik (12/14/05)  

I did finally play some 360 last night...after over 2 weeks of neglecting it. I didn't play anything that most people would deem substantial. Instead I downloaded some new games for the Live Arcade. I cannot believe how fun some of these games are. While it's being common knowledge that Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is a definite surprise hit, it goes so much deeper. In particular, I have to give a shout to Mutant Storm Reloaded. It's a lot like GW in many ways (from the controls to the weapons), but it has a little something extra by making the levels more individual. While GW goes on forever, MSR has set stages with limited numbers of unique baddies. This game is nothing short of addictive geek-crack. Since the trail version (the one I downloaded) is free, I have to urge that any fan of games like Smash TV and Robotron with a 360 give this free download a shot. It's well worth the price (which would equal the loss of a minute or two in downloading the game). 

To change notes to some more somber of news...There are many of us who used to, before FF7 brought RPGs to a more mainstream of audiences, count on Working Designs to give us our much needed Japanese RPG fix. Well, there is some bad news for those of us who still have fond memories of this wonderful "little engine that could". They are officially done

Victor "Mr. Working Designs" Ireland has announced that WD is no more. In a bit of a tirade against Sony (can you blame him?), he gave a vague idea of why WD is no more. It basically amounts to the original publishers in Japan getting to nit-picky about the localization process. This, no doubt, combined with how WD had started to fall really behind in releasing new games that would have a more massive of appeal in America, has caused an end to one of the first companies that seemed to inspire publishers like Atlus, Mastiff, and Agetec, who now give the bulk of localized game translations. 

On the bright side, Mr. Ireland has hinted that he will try to continue, with another company or group, the goal of WD; bringing neglected and overlooked Japanese games to the US. This time, it sounds like he will try to focus on bringing Japanese 360 games to us. Which, in the end, means we need to hope that the 360 starts to do good in Japan, or else there won't be much towards accomplishing this goal. However, maybe by escaping the death-grip of Sony and Sega, Ireland's goal may be more easily reached and without nearly the level of corporate red-tape. 

However, I still have to look back at my Saturn and Sega CD game collections and sigh. Most of the games that I deemed worthy of holding on to have been touched by WD. There's everything from the Lunar games to Vay to Shining Wisdom to Albert Odyssey. So many great RPGs that would have never seen our shores if not for the tenacity of WD and it's vision of bringing the best to us and bringing it in a format that was just a little above the quality that anyone else would do so. From hard bound manuals to cloth many fond memories. 

To wrap up this part of my post (and past...sigh...), Gamespot has a great little interview with Mr. Ireland about the (rise and) fall of Working Designs. There are some true words of wisdom in this thing. Especially, at least to me, is the part about how WD failed so badly because they were obsessed with bringing American gamers plot and game play rather than impressive visuals. I've always held some of the more simple looking RPGs, like Lunar, to be some of the most beautiful. 

Anyway, there's plenty of good information in this and some especially strong words about the faults of companies (cough::Sony::cough) that are too obsessed with all the wrong things. I have always held Vic Ireland in high regard for staying true to a definite vision that worked for him both as a gamer and as someone who brought us games. Hell...can you name anyone else who would bring us localized games and spend the time to write a couple of pages at the back of the instructions detailing what things may have changed in the localization process versus the Japanese original? I can't...but he did it (if you have an old WD game...not sure if it's in the PS1/PS2 games...just check the last few pages of the manual). So, in the end, I'll just end with this quote from Mr. Ireland in Gamespot's interview; 

"As the industry filled with legions of MBAs that admit to playing games an hour a week (if that) to see what was hot, gamers in high-level positions became ever more rare. It's really screwed up the market. Look at the diversity you saw on the PS1, and compare it to the PS2." 


Malik (12/15/05)  

For those still following NCSoft and CoH/CoV, there is some news on the lawsuit Marvel (the comic giant) filed against them. It basically comes down to Marvel and NCSoft now being friendly towards each other and nothing being changed about the NCSoft games in question (especially the character creation). So, if you're still into following these MMOs (which I was once part of...), this should be some really good news. 

Beyond that, the news for the day is pretty dry and empty. I guess with the approach of Christmas, there's very little point in games and developers making extra hype. Whatever is going to be given as a gift has already, in theory, been purchased and the vacation days are soon to be upon us. In other words, like how there's no news in the geek world during the summer, there's also a small drought about now for this mini-vacation period. 

I am almost done with DQ8. I fought the first "final boss" last night. Knowing DQ games and RPGs as a whole, this means I only have another real battle left before an epilogue, of sorts, opens up for me with a little more game play. I don't know if I'll take on the extra bits and get a "good ending" right away. Since I've become addicted to DQ8, I've let too many good games go without notice. My 360 is collecting dust, which is just wrong, and I've especially feel bad about neglecting Kameo. 

I aim to start pumping out my DQ8 review in the next few days, since I've now seen enough to write a completely unbiased review. If you need a sneak peak, I'll just let you think about this fact; I've neglected my 360 since getting this game and have dropped an almost uninterrupted 80 hours into it...does this mean it's good? I think the answer is pretty self explanatory. 

So, I'll leave things brief today as I start to compile some notes and images of DQ8 for my review. 


Malik (12/16/05)  

I love these rumors about how the current 360 is not the real deal and the final model (supposedly to be released "soon") will actually have HD-DVD drives. Yeah...I can give you one reason alone that this is full of bullshit; Microsoft would not deliberately try to screw their customers so quickly after so many rushed to get the 360 at launch. To change the format now would entail a couple of scenarios. 

In scenario one, this would mean that no games would actually use HD-DVDs and the drive would serve as little purpose...besides eventually playing HD-DVD movies. This would be the most likely case, if such a change happened. It won't happen, but this is a possible outcome. Why they would not have HD-DVD games is simple; because people with the "original" 360 could not play any of the HD-DVD games and so either companies would not want to chose between limiting their customers or releasing two version that would increase the cost of production and cause a higher level of unsold units. 

The other scenario would mean Microsoft would release the drive and it would become a standard feature. This means that all owners of the launch 360 would be forced to either upgrade or buy a new system if they want to play all the games for it. This would only cause more anger (this time it would be called for, at least) from the 360 launch crowd. Microsoft is not in a position to try to kill their fan support while they are actively trying to take Sony down a peg or two. It just wouldn't make sense from either a business model or from a PR perspective. 

Also, Microsoft is proud of offering the cheaper of the two main systems for this new generation. To add HD-DVD support would only increase costs of producing the system, and this would either increase the price or it would cause a larger loss per unit made. Either way, it would be bad news, financially, for Microsoft. 

So, for those who complain about the 360 being "not next-gen"...go f#@% yourself, pull your heads out of your asses, and wake up. Also, while you're at it, go and buy a 360. If you're a "hardcore" geek, then don't pull this fanboy bullshit and instead get everything. If you're not hardcore, but you say you are and you say that Sony is the only real console maker...sigh...go away you fanboy piece of shit. I'm sick of this whole bullshit about how the 360 is not next-gen since it's visuals are only "a little" better than the original XBox (and they are not...the visuals of the 360, when done right, are freakin' wonderful). Also, for those in this camp, I just wonder what you expect from the PS3 in terms of visuals. Keep in mind that the "tech demos" shown so far are pre-rendered garbage. 

The true definition for the "net-gen" systems is no longer going to be as heavily based on visuals. We are in a new world that will be based on abilities and technology...not just graphic chips. 

Well, I beat DQ8 last night. I got the bad ending (which you have to get before you can access the final bit of content to get the good ending). I started the path towards the good ending. So, tonight I aim to finish this stuff, see the good end, and then be done with the PS2 for a while. I know there is more stuff beyond the good ending, but I don't see the point in the bonus boss(es) since it doesn't really give anything worthwhile and it costs too much time to finish (as in, I'll need a few dozen extra about an hour to two per level-up). So, after tonight, I'll be full on in my efforts for a DQ8 review, and I'll be full on in my new appreciation for Kameo. 


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