Malik (1/17/05)  

So, despite my good meanings to be cautious about another Zelda (Minish Cap) for a portable made by Capcom, I broke down Friday night and bought Zelda:MC (GBA). However, my better intentions were, for once, not the better course of action. In other words, this game is teh roxor. I was surprised how well Capcom could turn around their Zelda portable work in one little title. 

This game ultimately consumed a majority of my weekend as I was stuck taking care of a quite sick Velveeta. So, I guess it worked out that I got this game. It plays quite similarly to the original GB Zelda game (I can never remember it's name...it's the one with a dream world and a giant egg on a mountain). You can still equip two different items to your A and B buttons, but you also can use your R button to roll, talk, etc (general action button). Plus you are given some really cool new abilities, such as the wind vase item that works like a vacuum by sucking things in to manipulate the environment. Also, they give some items some nice secondary features to handle some obstacles that older items could do (saving time in switching from one item to another). For example, a spider web that's blocking a door can be sucked down with the vacuum of doom, but also the latter found lantern can burn down the webs. 

Ultimately, the selection of items is both fun and bad. It's fun since you get the jump ability in the roc cape (which lets you float on top of jumping, unlike the old roc feather from the GB Zelda), the wind vase, a boomerang that you can control the course of, remote detonator bombs, and some mole claws that let you dig through walls of loose dirt. However, you are no longer granted the all amazing hook-shot, the ocarina has only one use (to summon a bird for transport), and you have no ranged fire attacks. So, in the end, the item selection is nice, but it's a little limited in the long run. Also, the number of items and dungeons in the game is quite limited (you get only 6 or so real dungeons with one key item per dungeon and then your shield, sword, boomerang, and bombs). 

However, another new idea that works quite well is the clone ability. Z:MC keeps the ability from the Four Swords to need more than one Link to push a large block, but since it's only one player, the game uses a new idea. This time you can create clones of yourself (the number you can make depends on your progress in the game) to help you push objects and attack (in fact, one boss requires clone attacks...making an interesting puzzle since clones have a limited lifespan and they all vanish if one takes any damage or moves into a wall). They all move exactly as you do, so there are some neat puzzles to solve in not just figuring out when a clone is needed, but also how to get you clones to the destination without dispelling them. 

Anyway, I am just about done with this game. It's a standard Zelda game, which means it's long enough for about one weekend of dedicated play. However, considering the length of prior Zelda games, it's not too bad. I'll try to have a review of this game up this week if I find nothing to bitch about for Malik's Bitchings. I figure I should cover my bases since news has been in short order lately. 

Also, I finished the story mode of THUG2. It was a fun game while it lasted, but the final level is a pain in the ass with some of the extra challenges that occur after the main goals have been met. At least the game rewards you after you finish the story mode with a bonus level (inside an alien mother ship...there's no goals, but it's a great level to play some free skating in). 

So, now that I'm done with THUG2, and since Zelda:MC is almost through, I'm once again in need of a new game for the third time in a week. Part of me is wanting to get Half-Life 2, but at the same time, I know it's only so long (I'm not a CS type of gamer...I'm a co-op fan, not a DM person) and it's expensive. Oh well. I'll figure something out, and if not, I'll just crack out Xenosaga again (maybe get through the game I started in December) or I can pull out my old standby...Xenogears. I guess time will tell, but that time is soon since I aim to complete Zelda tonight. 

Also, Gamespot had some cool info from Iwata (president of Nintendo) about the Revolution, the DS, and Iwata's thoughts on the PSP. You might want to check it out. I don't care for that "paradigm shift" bull shit, since that's been a deadly word for oh so many pieces of technology, but Nintendo does have some right ideas (like bringing back the retired gamers) and about increasing the market size rather than just fighting for a smaller market with their competitors. Anyway, check it out. There's no real news, but it's still a good read. 


Malik (1/18/05)  

Well, there's still not much going on in the news side of the geek world. Ok, there's EA taking control of another aspect of the sports world with the announcement (found on Gamespot.com) of a 15 year deal with ESPN. This basically means that EA is going to be the only respectable sports developer in the world, unless something mysterious and unfathomable happens in the next few weeks. I think it's all well and good with EA thinks they can not only handle paying so much to license their NFL titles and the ESPN name on their games, but that's still to be seen. The price of all of the contracts and licensing agreements comes down to a simple matter that the cost may not be covered by the revenue. However, beyond that, my biggest thoughts on this still come down to the old question of if this is the right direction for the gaming industry to go; no competition. 

EA and Sega used to be some of the most heated rivals in the game industry. However, both of them were more than ready to pull out some new tricks while maintaining high levels of quality to ensure that each sports gamer would have a reason to play their games. However, this competition is soon going to come to an end (who would buy a Football game in the US if the NFL name and the names of real players and teams were omitted?), and the only possible outcome will be either the quality suffering, or the workers at EA will suffer more. Either way, the lack of competition and the giant licensing fees at EA are going to have to bite one group, or more, in the ass.

Anyway, I was going to finish Zelda last night, but I ended up going to dinner with some friends and playing Mario Kart:DD until pretty late. So, I'll probably get this game wrapped up tonight, instead of getting it done yesterday. Then, after I finish the game, I'll start working on a review for this surprisingly good Nintendo game developed by an outside company. Anyway, I'm confident I can finish the game quite soon considering I'm at the obviously final dungeon and have already activated one of the two warps (each dungeon has two warp tiles that allow you to go from the first room to either the room before the boss or a room about mid-way through the level). So, if the other dungeons were any indication, I'd say I have about an hour left, at best, before I'm done with my second game in a week...and then the boredom sets in.

Speaking of which, I am now quite glad I didn't give in to the urges to play WoW. I was watching a friend try to log in last night, and the waiting list was insane. He was in line behind (literally) hundreds of others to log into his server. I can't believe Blizzard is letting this type of problem persist.

Anyway, I need to do a bit of the Zelda type thing. Peace.


Malik (1/19/05)  

It took me about 25 minutes of playing (counting going around to finish a couple of bonus things) to finish my latest adventure through Hyrule. I think The Minish Cap is the first Zelda game I've played that has involved such a good game all the way through and then crapping out in the final boss fights. Zelda games usually use a very fun yet adrenaline pumping boss fight system that involves a nice blend of both skill and action. However, and don't worry about spoilers since I'll avoid that sticky topic, in Minish, the final boss starts this way but soon turns into a battle to discover the obscure item or weapon needed to beat the current form before the boss rapes our poor hero for everything he's worth. You will have to use half of your items to defeat this boss's several forms, including some that seem completely out of place in a boss fight. I actually had to look up the solution to one of the boss's forms in order to continue since the game is so damned random. 

To make things worse, I actually looked up a second required tactic and learned that the game was just being really picky about how well I placed a hit. There are a few times in which you will need the Four Sword (which lets you split into 3 identical clones and the original Link, making four identical Links, of which one will not poof out if hurt) to land simultaneous blows on four different parts of the boss without being the slightest bit off. During this, the four Links all move the exact same (press up and they all move up, etc) and the boss is moving. Imagine that situation. Yup...it sucks. 

So, I was trying to decide on another game to fill the void while I write up a Minish Cap review and wait for Xenosaga Episode 2. I am currently torn on blowing another large sum of cash to get Half-Life 2, since I know it will never drop in price (just look at how long the original sat at $50), or playing an old game that's only collecting dust on my shelf. In the end, for last night at least, I settled on Katamari Damacy. There's a reason I gave KD such a freaking high score on my review; the game is hella addictive and it is one you can always come back to for more insanity. 

I doubt I'll play through another full game of KD, but I'll hit a few levels again. However, on the note of insanity, Ape Escape 2 is currently winning for my attention. I think it might be a good game to hit again while I consider the options. For those who missed out on AE2 (and AE1), or only played the new Ape Escape party game, you don't know what you're missing. AE2 is about the perfect blend of Zelda style weapons and items, puzzle mechanics, and the KD style insanity. I really should write up a review for this game since it was so damned good and so commonly overlooked...maybe I will. Who knows? 

On the news front, things still look pretty bleak. I mean EA is probably making a bid to own all of our souls (and they have the bank to do it), and WoW is still sucking arse in terms of their servers. It makes me glad I didn't jump on it when I could have. However, there is some interesting news/rumors at Gamespot about Jade Empire. The date is most likely pushed back about a month (now to be, supposedly, released April 26th). However, the most interesting news is that a limited edition version of the game is being made which will include a bonus character and an extra fighting style. Fortunately the price of this limited edition JE looks the same, right now, as the normal edition...at least on the EB website. However, with how Halo 2 and many other limited edition games were in the last year, I'd expect a price increase at most retailers.   The funny thing is when I pre-ordered this title a few minutes ago, the clerks at EB couldn't believe how stupid it is to charge the same price for a better version of the same damned game.  I mean how hard is it to decide, if you pre-order this game, do I want an extra character and an extra fighting style for the same price or not?  I don't think it's all that hard of a choice.

Anyway, I need to find something in the present to keep my mind occupied...too many and too few games... 


Malik (1/20/05)  

So, first I tried to give Ape Escape 2 another run through. Since I still have an old completed save, I could do an equivalent of New Game+ (done by selecting new game and holding R1 as you hit start, or something like that), which starts you as the protagonist of AE1, and you start with all of the equipment and a land version of the water net...which lets you net monkeys from a distance and not face the risk of being pummeled as you try to catch them. If this makes no sense, then you need to play this game. 

Well, that was fun for about 15 minutes. Don't get me wrong, the game is awesome. My problem is that I have far too good of a memory, and in this game most of the fun comes from figuring out how to catch each monkey...if you remember it all (and I do) then there's no challenge and the game becomes a joke. So, I naturally had to give up on that endeavor...maybe in another year I may forget how to beat every part of the game...maybe. 

So, I settled on just playing a bunch of Katamari last night. I realized that I had not unlocked Eternal 1 and 2. In the Eternal modes, you can play through MAS 4, MAS 8, and the Moon level with unlimited time (for some free for all destruction/construction). So, first I unlocked those (done by getting a certain size on MAS4, 7, and Moon before the time runs out), and then spent a good amount of time just playing the constellation levels. Especially I tried to do good on Taurus...which is a pain in the ass...and North Star...another pain in the ass level. 

In Taurus, you are supposed to run over one cow. The bigger the cow, the better. The only thing is there are "cows" all over the place and mostly they are tiny. You need to build up your Katamari by avoiding the "cows" and getting big enough to capture a big "cow". I keep saying "cow" instead of cow for a reason. The objects related to cows are also considered "cows". So, if you run over a tiny container of milk, or a traffic cone with a cow design on it, or a sign that says "Don't Steal Cows", those will count as freakin' cows. Needless to say, I gave up frustrated on that one after I got knocked into a carton of milk (which is the smallest "cow" object in the level). It took me about 10 minutes of careful planning to get that big, and then I was knocked into a tiny object...blah. 

For the North Star level, you need to make your Katamari 10m across. The only problem is you don't know how big you start, and you don't know how big you actually are. For some reason I just can't get into my head how big 10m actually is. So, after a few attempts, my best is going over to a 12.4m. I think I'd rather focus on the funner levels anyways. 

As for news, there is some today, and it's not good for Xeno fans. According to Gamespot, Soraya Saga has left the Xenosaga project. For those who aren't obsessed enough with this franchise, She, along with her husband, Tetsuya Takahashi, co-wrote the scripts for Xenogears and the first two Xenosaga games (and a mobile Xeno game, too). Supposedly she was not considered a key member of the Xeno team, and has either decided to leave or was forced out. No matter how you look at this, the loss of her will most likely be too big of an event in Xeno to be unnoticed. Flat out, this will most likely suck balls, but...there's always a small chance that someone can pick up the reins with no problem...of course that's just me struggling to come to grasps with how the plot of this franchise could greatly suffer...and as of late, the plot is all this franchise has really had going for it with the slow degradation of game play since Xenosaga 1 twisted the brilliant battle mechanics of Xenogears, and now with Xenosaga 2 eliminating money. I still hope to ride this franchise to the end, but who knows...sigh... 


Malik (1/21/05)  

There's a good reason I gave Katamari Damacy a high score when I reviewed it...that being how long you can keep playing it. Last night I couldn't figure out what game to play while I wait for Xenosaga 2. After a lot of wasted time looking up reviews and news on some older games, I decided to just go the cheap route and play something I already have...well, it's the cheap route, but I mainly chose it since there is nothing I've overlooked, except for Phantom Brave (which I don't have enough time for right now). 

So, I went with Katamari. I have beaten that game into submission, but there are a few things I can still do for the hell of it. I haven't made comets out of every star yet...which is done by reaching the goal size in a far shorter time than you are allotted. I also haven't found most of the gifts (which are decorations you can put on your protagonist...and a camera used to save three pictures per level from the first person perspective). So, last night I got an extra comet or two, but mainly I played to get some gifts...which I only had the luck to find three more of (including said camera). 

At least, even with failing to meet my goals, KD is one hell of a fun game on it's own. I easily killed about 3 hours playing the same levels I've played a thousand times before. This is what makes a good game stand out from the rest; staying power. I just hope I can find something new to play before KD loses it's luster. 

You may have noticed that despite it being Friday, I have not mentioned Malik's Bitchings yet. There's a reason, for those who haven't paid much attention lately to my posts; there is no news. Ok, there is the news of Xeno losing a key writer, but that will only cause potential Bitchings when Xeno 3 comes out. As for EA now having exclusive rights to both the NFL and ESPN for their sports game...well, it's just EA being the usual mega-corporation that causes us all to cower in fear. It will probably come back to bite them later since a lack of competition usually causes stagnation (their games will degrade in quality...or at least slow down in how quickly the new features are cranked out). 

Competition is an important thing for any industry since it drives the need for R&D to constantly improve products. Eventually, a product that has no competition starts to lose it's appeal from this stagnation, and then EA will feel the pain of their massively expensive multi-year contracts with the NFL and ESPN. Anyway, I honestly don't care too much about football games, so I won't even continue this line of thinking. 

I am still working on a Zelda Minish Cap review. I can't guarantee anything in terms of when it'll be ready, but I'd probably expect it in the next week, at the most. Beyond that, I'm still waiting for some real geek news to come back to the geek world. I mean this holiday season lag is dragging on further and further each year. It's like the Christmas shopping season, which starts sometime around September now, except it's the low stress and high boredom time that follows the season. Anyway, I've got a review to write.