Malik (1/24/05)  

I ended up getting Mercenaries over the weekend in my latest bid to keep entertained until Xenosaga 2 comes out in the middle of February.  On one hand, it was a good decision since it's a game that has some nice potential to keep me entertained.  On the other hand, it's was a poor decision in terms of keeping me entertained for so long when a good old RPG is what I really need...however, with the lack of RPGs currently on the market (not counting Phantom Brave, which is a little too much game for this time limit), it may be what I need to rely on.

Mercenaries, of which I bought the XBox version simply because of the more powerful system being the XB, is not a bad game, but it is a rushed feeling game.  It plays a lot like the good old GTA series.  You have a mission based game in which you are given missions from a variety of factions to progress the story.  Also, when you are currently looking (or not looking) for a mission, you can freely roam the land and try to find some bonus items, have a little extra target practice, or whatever.  Also, you can control how the four factions view your character and organization by how you solve missions (if you kill a bunch of Russians during a mission, you can expect the Russians to start feeling a little hostile towards you.

However, the biggest part of this game is the fact that there are glitches.  There are enough glitches to make any GTA game and any KOTOR game feel bug-free.  The worst bug I've encountered is the dialogue glitch.  In this one, as you speak with someone to learn your next mission, the dialogue (the spoken part) will freeze, and the subtitles will continue to progress.  However, once the spoken dialogue returns, then everything gets scrambled and you are left with the choice of accepting or turning down a mission that you didn't catch the details of.  Then, once the mission is on, you only get a brief "email" description of the mission that will leave you scratching your head in confusion.

Ultimately, this is a perfect game for someone who loves GTA style game play, but doesn't need a plot or character development.  However, since I've always been a plot fan, there is something lacking from this game.  It's not enough to keep me from playing, but it is enough to keep be only half interested.

Also, with that little mini-review of Mercenaries, it's time I reviewed something else...yup, my Zelda: The Minish Cap review is ready.  The review is a little on the short side, but that's only because it's a Zelda game.  If you haven't played Zelda before, then play Link to the Past (a game worthy of a 9+ any day of the week) and then check out the review.   If you do know Zelda, then check it out and enjoy the brevity of it all.  Also, for those who'd flame away, an 8+ is a good score.  It's not a 10, but it doesn't deserve a 10.  Anyone who'd say otherwise is just being a fanboy.  Anyway, check it out and flame if you want.

As for me, it's Mercenaries time.


Malik (1/25/05)  

Before I get to other things, I just felt this (as reported by Gamespot.com) is pretty funny...It seems the PSP has been designed to have an unresponsive square button. Why? Because it is so close to the screen, so the actual button is not directly over it's internal sensor, making the button less responsive. What does Sony say about this and how almost 5000 PSPs have been sent in to repair this? 

"The button's location is [architectured] on purpose," Kutaragi added. "It's according to specifications. This is something that we've created, and this is our specification. There was a clear purpose to it, and it wasn't a mistake." 

That would be as stated on Gamespot, and as said by the SCE president. But you can't blame him since after all; 

"I believe we made the most beautiful thing in the world." 

Sony's not full of themselves, are they? Nahhh. I just love to think of how these masters of all that is perfectly functioning electronics and true artists in every sense can stand to make products that we commoners would dare to use without a proper aesthetic sense. The size of the doors at Sony must be pretty cool looking in order to fit their giant swelled heads through them. Blah. 

So, yesterday I decided that Mercenaries needed some company in my current roster of games. The main reason was how frustrating this game can be. It plays a lot like a GTA game in the free roaming world with mission setup. This includes the biggest problem of a GTA game; I was on a long mission yesterday to capture the Ace of Clubs (the game uses a setup like the US forces did in Iraq with assigning all of the top terror suspects a card in a deck of playing cards, with the aces being the most dangerous...the bosses), and was almost done. I had used some expert tactics and stealth (and skills) to take down all of the first targets that needed to be removed in order to find the suspect. There was one jamming site (it stops radio transmissions, so I couldn't call for extraction until these sites were gone, and thus I didn't want to capture this dude until these sites were offline) left, and I had an RPG pointed right at it. Just them the game went into a slow motion death, despite how I was at full health a second before. Normally an RPG shot or a sniper shot could hurt a lot, but not this much. As I died in slow motion, I saw a normal civilian, in the driver seat of a pickup, on the sidewalk, driving over my corpse. Yup, I had a classic GTA death of a stupid civilian freaking out and running me down with a one hit truck tire death. So, I got tired of it all and came to two decisions. First, I'm going ahead to cheat on this game because I otherwise won't make it through these 30 minute missions with any sanity left. 

Secondly, I decided to get Suikoden 4. While many reviewers gave it crap for scores, I still decided to brave the game. I played about 6-8 hours yesterday and have to ask one question; what the hell are these reviewers smoking? This game is hella sweet. It's so good, but it's gotten so bad of scores. 

S4 plays a lot like the prior Suikoden games, but with 4 people per party, and none of the damned trinity system (thankfully) from S3. The story is a good old Suikoden plot, the game play is the same old Suikoden game play (with 4 person parties), the monsters are Suikoden monsters, the theme is the same...what could be so wrong with giving this game a good review. In fact, there are only two possible problems with this game. The first one is that the ship (you travel only by ship on the world map) is plagued by random battles (literally every 2-5 seconds). However, these battles are really quick, so I can't complain too much. It's not like Beyond the Beyond with it's slow constant battles. 

My second problem is that I put the innkeeper in my party as the support character and now cannot remove her. The innkeeper is the one who is also responsible for changing your party members, so I'm stuck with her in my party until I get to a mandatory party change or find another person with this type of job. That annoys me some, but at least my party is good, so I don't want to change anyway. 

I will probably aim for a S4 review in the next couple of weeks, but I need to get in some quality time with it first. If things continue how they're going, I'd say S4 is going to get a far fairer review from me than most other sources have done (with the exception of Game Informer, which was good enough to give something around an 8.5). 


Malik (1/26/05)  

I spent a good deal of time last night swearing at Suikoden 4. It's not that I'm falling prey to the common review that this game is crap, but rather that I've overlooked the obvious. 

I ended up putting the innkeeper in my support position early on in S4, which drops her from being available in my base. She is the one who takes care of letting you rest or save (although you can do those in your main character's bedroom). However, she's also the one who changes who's in your party. So, when I needed to talk to her, I had no idea of how to find her if she's stuck in my party and is the one to see about kicking her out of the party. In the end, I resorted to asking on some message boards to find out I was just being dumb. 

It ends up that another person you automatically have join your base, but can't join your active party, can change out party members. However, I've only talked to him when a new story segment appeared, and he's a main story progressing character, so I've never actually tried to talk to him a second time to find the obvious solution to my party changing nightmare. Blah...that was a giant waste of my time. 

As for how the average reviews have been calling S4 crap, I think I understand it perfectly now. While most of these reviews say that Suikoden fans should be cautious (check out the last line of the first paragraph in this review at Gamespot.com), what they actually meant was that fans who only entered the series with S3 should be cautious. S3 was that evolutionary step in the series that made a lot of changes (I won't say if they are for the better or the worse...since they were pretty much 50/50). It was like FF7 and 8 for the FF series. However, just like with FF9, S4 reverts to a more classical feeling for the series. In reality, S4 is a perfect game for those of us who still look back at the PSX Suikoden games with love and affection. As for those of us who only played S3 and found it to be the be-all-end-all of RPGs...yeah, you may want to approach this game with some sense of reality (that this is not your favorite S3 and is more like MY favorite S1). 

It seems like bullshit to me that a game is allowed to "innovate" in a way that could kill a series in a single breath, but if the next incarnation is like the older games (which all were highly scored when reviewed...except by Gamespot, who only seemed to care for S3...hmmmm...) it is just wrong. FF9 was a classic for any of us who had been playing FF games from the start and the same can be said of Suikoden 4. Ironically enough, the average major game reviewers had called FF9 crap and FF8 amazing (despite how most of the actual fans of FF...that would be those of us who played them all and didn't just start with FF7...had called 8 the worst piece of crap to come to the series up to this point). When most developers are pushing old franchises into the wrong "innovative" direction, it is actually nice to see one developer doing the opposite and bringing back what we've all come to know and appreciate as a true pinnacle of gaming. 

Sorry, I had to rant there...Anyway, there's not much going on since I blew so much time yelling at my support character for her to leave my freakin' party. As for the other side of things... 

Beyond the fact that the next Arc the Lad game is coming in May, there's really nothing newsworthy again. I mean there's more on the sports licensing war between EA and Take Two (who is now the sole people behind the 2K, formerly Sega, sports games). Like how Take Two has the license for MLB and how EA is soon going to purchase the rights to everything. It's an ugly little war. In the end, both EA and Take Two stand to do quite well in their respective sports, but how about the rest of us? I mean those of us who like sports games are either going to be happy that only our preferred sports game maker is the one covering our preferred sport or we will hate having to resort to "the other company" to make the game for our sport of choice. Or there's the ultimate problem that involves both companies getting lazy without their normal levels of competition and then all the games start to suffer. Well, here's hoping that 33% chance of everything being good works out. 

Anyway, I really have little to say tonight. Maybe I'll find something to say tomorrow since I'll actually be moving forward in Suikoden 4 again. Maybe... 


Malik (1/27/05)  

Well, now that Take Two has started it's rise to taking a stake in everything, should we really be surprised about TTWO (their stock symbol, which is easier to write than the whole name...yes, I'm lazy) being the publisher of Civilization game (as found on Gamespot.com)? I don't really think so. In the last week, not only has TTWO taken the MLB license, and claimed the license to publish Firaxis games (it's more than just Civilization that's in the works here), but they also took ownership of Visual Concepts (the Sega Sports developer) from Sega and made a new brand of 2K for their upcoming sports titles. It looks like TTWO has taken a page from the book of EA. That would be, they are now slowly staking a claim in everything around them. 

On one hand, this is good for TTWO who suffered greatly with some financial scandals (or something business like that) last year, which resulted in the resignation/removal of a CEO or some high up person...sorry, I don't follow business news too closely, so I know the vague details, and that's about it. This is a good chance for TTWO to clean up their acts and get things under control...and then to try to squash everything around them. 

I guess this is the direction that the game world is moving towards...a couple big ass companies that rule over all the little companies...until their buy them out. 

A good point was said on Penny-Arcade yesterday. It was along the lines of how it's the games that really matter. Not the publisher, the developer, or whatever. I mean I don't care for Square much anymore, but if they release a good RPG (I've been waiting for a long time on that one...like since FFX ruined my opinion of them), I'll be skeptical at first, but then I'd buy it and enjoy. So, if every game made comes from EA, Infograms, Nintendo, and TTWO, then so be it. I'll buy those games as long as their good...by the way, this is no attack on Nintendo (I love their games...I've been disappointed by them far fewer times than every other game developer out there...not counting their third-party developed titles published as Nintendo made, which have been pretty sad and pathetic in comparison). 

Anyway, I did play some more S4 last night. I am still finding it hilarious that the majority of reviews could call this game crap. Ok, a 6 out of 10 is not crap, but it's pretty lame none-the-less. I've been completely addicted in almost every regard. The only real exceptions is that I like to travel by land in an easy to navigate manner...I'm sorry, but I just don't care for a world of oceans with a few small islands in a vast desert of blue. I hated it in Wind Waker, and I don't care for it in S4. Maybe it'll feel a little better when I get the ability to teleport to my location (as every Suikoden game has in the form of a certain reappearing character...who will probably be back). At least your movement speed does pick up greatly once you acquire Cedric (who is one of the first people you can recruit to your party)...in fact, you run becomes almost uncontrollable at that point...almost, but not quite. 

I'm thinking that the games harshest critics were probably the ones too stupid to read the instructions. The biggest complaint I've seen (beyond the plot...which is a great plot and fits the mood of the series perfectly) is how slowly you move. While you are a little slow in your ship, it's not too bad considering the fact that we're dealing with a rather large world to explore. Anyway, as I said, if these critics had read their instructions, then they would probably had seen the nifty feature of the R1 button, which speeds up your travel both by foot and by ship. It is true you move slow as hell normally, but if you use R1 (which doesn't cost a thing, and it's free to use from the very start of the game) you will find yourself cruising with some nice velocity. 

I guess in the end, even reviewers need to get bitchy from time to time. Also, this is a good reminder of what I always think...and this applies to my reviews too. If you know the reviewers tastes in games, then you can count on them about 75% of the time...otherwise, don't judge a game off of one review or you will only regret it later. For example, most reviews will give FF games great scores, especially in the plot department, but these same reviewers will give other RPGs with far better plots but far more complex and confusing game play low marks for the plot. It doesn't make much sense to us RPG geeks, but then again, our choice of RPGs usually doesn't make sense to the non-RPG geeks (or the people who just aren't both geeks and RPG players). 

Anyway, I'm rambling, so it's about time I get back into the S4 world. However, once again, I'm giving a heads up that Malik's Bitchings is not going to be around this week. There is still nothing to complain about, beyond the giant conglomerations that are taking down the tradition small game developers (or buying them out). I could complain about this, but it's still premature...however, once the next EA football game sucks, or once Civilization goes to crap, then I can...if that happens. That's where the problems all arise in bitching about this stuff; the first step to mediocrity is upon us, but who knows if this is how things will turn out? I sure as hell don't, so I'm covering my ass by not bitching, yet. I don't just complain about everything I see; just the crappy stuff that I can back up with some facts. So, until some real news is upon us, expect me to cover reviews and news, and not much else. Speaking of which, I'll probably start a S4 review in the next few days and have that up in a week. 


Malik (1/28/05)  

I was hoping that within a couple of weeks of the new year beginning that news would start to pour in again. I guess on one hand we did get some news about EA and TTWO trying to take over as much of the game industry as possible...but that's not what I really care about, and I bet it's true for the rest of you too. I mean what does it matter if two companies make all of the licensed games for everything? Seriously, it's the games that matter, not the companies behind them. 

So, it's another day of no real news. The closest thing I can find to real news is that Konami is unveiling a Castlevania game for the PS2 (along with a few other titles, including two for the DS). That would be news, on a slow news day, if it wasn't already known that this was bound to happen. If it was announced that Konami was coming back to their senses by making the best 2D game ever seen on this generation, that would be cool. However, this is another doomed 3D game. 

It makes no sense why Komani, along with the rest of the industry, doesn't realize that old 2D game franchises are not usually going to work for a 3D engine. Castlevania has failed twice already, and has succeeded a whole zero times. When Konami made a 2D Castlevania for the PSX, despite how everyone was saying that they needed to make it 3D, what happened? I can tell you easily. They made the single best Castlevania game ever made, not to mention one of the greatest games ever for any console. With such an awesome formula, why are they keeping it restricted to the handhelds? This is a game that will be loved in 2D no matter what console it goes to. I mean when Contra made it's triumphant return to 2D on the PS2, the geek world rejoiced. Why not keep up this brilliant line of thinking? 

Ok, that was close enough to a Malik's Bitchings for today. I mean there's too little to logically bitch about, so that's all you'll get from me, once again. Hopefully I'll soon make a return to my Bitchings, but that all depends on when the game business wakes up from their holiday season napping. 

I'm still giving my full attention and affection to Suikoden 4. I would like to spend some time with Mercenaries, but let's face it; it sucks compared to S4 (yet the reviews seem to say the opposite...isn't that ironic...or not...). I also want to try out some multiplayer DS since Velveeta now has her DS, but that hasn't gone anywhere yet. I did try out the connection last night in the Pictochat utility. It worked pretty well, although the connection seems a little slow for me. It took about 1-2 seconds for a message to go from one system to another. I also tried out the game download for Mario 64. It takes a good many minutes for the game to download, but once it's running, it's flawless. Well, except for how I'd rather be playing those mini-games in the Rec Room than playing a battle mode in which you fight for stars. At least it works nicely from what I could try with two DSes and one person (me).

I'm planning to start a review of S4 quite soon. I am now a good deal into the game with a healthy (or unhealthy) chunk of time in it. I figure it's about time to start cranking this thing out. I don't know when it'll be up, but I'm guessing by this time next week, unless there's some news to bitch about. Anyway, I'm out for a relaxing geek-inspired weekend.