Malik (1/31/05)  

Let's start things off on a silly note; Check out the last part of the Rumor Control feature for this week at Gamspot.com. Yup, a new cancer causing gene has been isolated that's been given the name POKEMON. I, in particular, find this one hilarious since I know the nature of genes and enzymes with silly names from my day job (like an enzyme known as sexAI...that's pronounced "sex A one", or a gene that is known as f*** up, and that is pronounced as "f*** up"...imagine me having to present that type of data at a big meeting...and yes, it is very awkward). So, now Pokemon can cause seizures and POKEMON can cause cancer. 

Anyway, I wanted to play a lot of Suikoden 4 this weekend...that only half played out. I got in some good S4 time on Sunday, but I spent too much time the rest of the weekend as my friend Meat Shield bought a shit load of games. So, while I should have been playing S4, I instead watched a good deal of PoP2, KOTOR2 (I always like to see how people handle the same problems and puzzles in that game after I've done it...it's interesting to see the variation allowed with this title in game play and puzzle solving), and playing some Mario Tennis. 

Overall, I'd say Mario Tennis is a nice surprise, as long as you've got the people to play with. This game is great with four human players, but I think I'd feel disappointed with anything less. I don't know if I'd want to purchase this game, but I do know I'd be more than happy to play off of a friend's copy. 

I haven't quite started that S4 review. I was going to also work on that, but things fell apart with how little I actually played the game. I still feel like I need another few hours of playing before I can give up an actual review and not the usual biased BS that so many "reviewers" are throwing around on this game. It's not perfect by any means, and it doesn't rank as highly as the first one (which too many people ignored), but it is better than the third Suikoden (which everyone loved despite how much it went against the feel of the franchise). 

Speaking of franchises, TTWO has claimed more rights to MLB. I won't even go into it, but they will soon own the rights to everything Baseball, just like EA with the NFL. I'm just glad I am not a big fan of sports video games since this will probably cause some stupidity in the upcoming baseball and football games. I mean if you have no competition, you will have no reason to improve a game. Plus, with such a strong built in fan base, there's enough money to be made without any real need for new fans, so the job for TTWO and EA is simple and to the point; make new games with the same old game play and people will buy. 

Before I split, I should also throw out some initial impressions on another slightly older, but overlooked, game. Velveeta got in her Taiko Drum Master a few days ago. This is a pretty fun game, for a rhythm title. The biggest selling point to this over Donky Konga (the only real home drum game competition) is that the songs are either real, or close enough. Unlike DK, which uses some really bad sounding versions of the original music (making me think of those Kids Bop compilation CDs that are advertised on TV so often), Taiko uses some really convincing sounding music (I don't know if it's real or not, and I don't fully care...all I care about is that it sounds real). Also, some of the Namco original music is pretty damned good, especially when compared to the DK original music (like the Zelda theme that sounds like it had a few too many Mai Tais with the Love Boat theme). Especially, since I'm such a Katamari fanatic, the Katamari on the Rocks song is hella sweet. 

The only downside to this game, which is shared by most rhythm titles, is the movement of the input device. The drum will not sit still unless you prop something behind it (which is what the DK drums are for, at least when I'm playing). I'm not a huge rhythm game fan, but if I was, this would definitely be the best one for me beyond the traditional DDR franchise. So, if it's your type of thing, this is a good investment. 


Malik (2/1/05)  

Jade Empire finally has a more official release date. That would be the 14th of April. Of course the release date has been "decided" by different people for a while now and we've seen everything from about 2 months ago to May of this year. However, in theory, this should be the final date. I've personally grown tired of the JE release date game...it's like musical chairs, except with a couple more chairs than people, and we are all just watching and wondering when the game will end so we can do something fun. 

I'm still playing Suikoden 4. I mean there's not much to really say beyond the fact that I've started to compile some of the data for a review. Well, I could also say that this battle system, the one that has 4 people in the front line and no back line, is annoying me about now. In the past Suikoden games, you'd have a front line to defend your mages, who would be in the back. In this game, there's almost no incentive to use a good mage when a half-good mage with fighter abilities will not die nearly as quickly. Plus, I don't know the logic behind it, but the person in the front of your line-up (who is always the hero for me) is the last person hit by the enemies...unless I put someone else in that position, then it's hit all the time. A good example is when I found a (I'll avoid spoilers) certain person with a true rune on a ghost ship. I put this obvious mage in the last position of the line up. He/She has enough HP and defense to survive 3 attacks, yet when I'd fight 4 enemies, this character went down first every battle. The worst part is if I decide to put that character in any other position and then he/she dies again and again no matter where he/she is put. 

I guess Suikoden 4 is quite good at that aspect of things. If you do something that seems obvious, it will never turn out how you'd expect. If you attach some elemental rune pieces to your weapon, it will not deal more damage, or hurt people weak to that element. It just is there. Plus, you can stick a dozen of a given rune piece of that weapon and it will still not do anything beyond what the first piece does, which is not a damned thing. Confused? I know I am. 

I think the concept of Konami, with designing S4 more like the first two Suikoden games, was a rather good idea. However, the lack of explanation (at least in S1, if you put a rune piece of a weapon, it would glow that associated color when you attacked) and the smaller parties seems to be out of Konami's favor. At least S4 doesn't have that "trying too hard" feeling that S3 gave me. I always felt like S3 was trying to be something bigger than it could ever be, and then I just felt let down when it all ended and nothing climatic occurred. In S4, there is at least a constant motivation for the hero to keep pressing forward, while in S3 it felt like the heroes would've been better off waiting at home (with the high defenses associated with a home castle) and letting the fight come to them rather than risking it all to get in the first attack. 

Plus, I have to say I'm in favor of a plot that doesn't leave too many questions. I know what I'm doing on S4, and I know why I'm doing it. I may not always know how to trigger a new event, but I do know why I did whatever I triggered. Also, since I've always considered the first Suikoden a true classic, it's nice to see the obvious throw-backs to the long time fans (and there are a few of them). 

Anyway, I really don't have too much to say today. It's a pretty laid back day, with a new month starting and still no new news, and I'm just chilling with good old Suikoden 4. 


Malik (2/2/05)  

I came upon a realization last night as I played Suikoden 4...actually two realizations. The first is that I'm almost done with the game. I know this for two reasons. The first is that in prior Suikoden titles, once you have about 90+ Stars of Destiny the final 18 (or less) will arrive quickly and the final one arrives just prior to the last dungeon. Secondly, I have been cheating by using a walkthrough to not miss any of the SoD. This walkthrough tells me that the final group of stars are now all within my grasp. 

When I say I used a walkthrough, it's not that I use it to find all the secrets and all the solutions to any puzzles or boss strategies. I only use it for the SoD since the game is just not beaten without all 108 and I don't aim to play through a second time anytime soon, so I want to do it correct from the start. I personally don't have the patience to play through something as long as an RPG with a walkthrough in front of me since it takes far longer to actually play the game as you look up every little detail as you play...and this isn't time well spent. If anything, that's what new game + is for...using some walkthrough to find everything. 

Anyway, with S4 almost done, I will soon be devoted more to Mercenaries, which has been abused and neglected by me like the red-haired step-child of my gaming collection. I know I've treated it poorly, but I will make some amends before Xenosaga 2 comes out in less than 2 weeks. However, this game I still plan to stand by my decision to cheat the hell out of it. A game with GTA style missions that last for about 15-30 minutes (per mission) with all of the bugs of GTA and a good dozen more is not one I have the patience for without a little cheating...I already had the last mission I tried (which lasted for 30 minutes before I dies) fail miserably as some civilian ran me down on a sidewalk with his pickup as I did nothing to him. That was a little too lame for me to stand seeing over and over. 

Also, this month is the month when the DS should start to see some new games that are not just rip-offs of Bejeweled. It's not that a person is dumb if they like Bejeweled, but if they blow $35 on a rip-off of it (like the game Zoo Keeper), then that is pretty dumb. However, with Wario Ware Touched on the horizon, it looks like it's finally time for the DS to pick up some speed (and stop serving as a fancy looking GBA in my hands). 

For those of us who have been waiting for a real crop of DS titles, I saw a good explanation on a message board that I think makes a good deal of sense from a business aspect. Many of the better pseudo-launch DS titles (the games that come out right after launch but should have been launch titles) were probably pushed back to March just to better serve in the battle of the DS versus the PSP. So, I will forgive Nintendo for making me feel like my DS is a waste, for now, since they are a business after all, and this is what proper business is all about, despite what EA and TTWO are saying; Competition. 

Anyway, it's another day of no news...besides the fact that Gran Tourismo 4 is coming out on the 22nd...I'm getting quite sick of this crap. I want some company to grow enough balls to say, "here's something cool before E3 forces us to make news". This is about the only year I can think of in which there has been no real news for over a month at the start of the year (and I'm not counting the pathetic license mongering of EA and TTWO with their sports games). Sigh. 


Malik (2/3/05)  

It's one of those days...There's some Suikoden 4 going on for me, but that's all on the geek front.  Between dealing with people who live in their own fantasy worlds who are trying to impose their sense of un-reality on me and people trying to have more than are in their means (someone tried to jack my car for the second time in less than a month and my apartment is trying to screw me out of some money), I'm just not in a social mood, so I'm going to stop now for tonight.  I'll talk more tomorrow, when I hope people stop trying to force me into a place I shouldn't be, but for now...sigh...blah.


Malik (2/4/05)  

Well, yesterday certainly did suck for me, but I'm done with that mess now.  I used my lack of social behavior to get in a little Suikoden 4...ok, not a little...I beat that mo fo.  I probably played about 6 hours worth yesterday in a desperate bid to finish this great game before I bring you all the review...which is ready today.  So, it looks like I did my job quite well.

I was a bit disapointed with the conclusion of this game.  Unlike the prior Suikoden games, which were all somewhat vague (like Outlaws of the Marsh...the book these games are based upon), the conclusion of S4 is beyond vague.  I don't know what happened to half of the characters after the game ended.  Of these 50% I don't know anything about beyond the final battle, they include all the major players, except for Lino and Snowe.  I, personally, don't need too much of a conclusion to a great game, but I need to at least know what happened to the hero of the game.  Blah.

Anyway, check out the review, since I won't have a Malik's Bitchings today.  I'm still waiting for enough news that's worthy of being bitched at.  There is a little news out there, but it's almost not worth complaining about.  As I saw on Gamespot.com, TTWO is now co-publishing the next Elder Scrolls game.  This is yet another move in the newest fad of TTWO and EA owning and being involved in EVERYTHING!!!  They shall devour all we know!  We...oh!  Sorry, I went off again.  Like I said before, as long as the games are fun, I'll let these two try to destroy the idea of competition.

The other piece of news I saw that I can't help but complain about, also from Gamespot.com, is about the PSP.  On one hand, the PSP now has a release date in the US.  That would be the 24th of March.  That's cool.  However, the PSP will only see in the US as part of a damned f$#@ing bundle pack.  This bundle will run for about $30 more than the same bundle ran in Japan when the PSP was launched there two months ago.  This bundle includes a case, a battery pack, an AC adapter (is that supposed to make me feel special that I get in a bundle what I should get for free?), a demo disk, a 32MB memory stick (ummm...you could, if not in a bundle, spend the same amount and walk away with a few hundred MB worth of memory if you knew where to shop), and the first million pre-orders will get Spiderman 2 on UMD (the movie, not the game).

In Japan, the PSP was available in both a standard package (the PSP and a battery and an AC adapter) and this bundle package (without the Spiderman 2 UMD).  Also, the price was much lower for the bundle.  Plus, with the standard package, you would have enough left over to afford a good memory stick, while the 32MB stick will not offer enough room for anything practical.  However, not only is the price higher in the US, but we will be forced to deal with this substandard memory stick with no chance to escape it.  It reminds me of how I had to get Armageddon on DVD with my PS2 bundle from Amazon.com.  This is a sad and pointless endevor that will ultimately leave all American PSP buyers as losers.  Think of it as a good way for Sony to eliminate some of their surplus of obsolete 32MB memory-duo sticks.  Blah.  I think now I'll be more than happy to wait on buying a PSP until some of the glitches and the price can be eliminated or illuminated.