Malik (2/28/05)  

Another week is upon us. I have a bad feeling about this week. I'm probably going to drop way too much time and get far too little enjoyment out of Xenosaga 2, yet again. I'm also doubting another Malik's Bitchings this week since there's still no real sign of news. I also have a feeling that my time I waste on X2 will not be enough to finish the horribly long and under-developed title to start a review. I also think that GT4 and RE4 are both going to keep tempting me with no remorse...but, as I've said before, there's no way I'll get a new game until I slay X2, since otherwise I'd never have a reason to finish this game (and I so do want to rip it apart in a good review...I'm not biased against this game...just pissed at the major let down...Game Informer compared Xenosaga 2 to Devil May Cry 2 and with good reasons). 

The only real news I've seen since last week is along the lines of Nintendo finally testing the wireless capabilities of the DS. As reported on Gamespot, Nintendo is starting some tests in Japan for downloadable demos and add-on content for a few games (like Jam With the Band). These downloads will be centered around special kiosks. Sadly, with this type of development, it sounds, to me at least, like this plan will be pretty pointless in the US. I mean a kiosk based plan would not be too unusual in Japan, but it is not really the American style for doing things. 

I, as I hinted, played a lot of Xenosaga 2 this weekend. I got through one more dungeon and was bored out of my mind at the pointless battle system. To win a fight, boss or normal, all you mainly do is keep selecting "stock" (which is used to build up how many attacks you can do in a single combo) until each character does it 3 times. Then you have to make sure you have a nicely full boost bar (if you're facing a boss...not needed on most normal enemies). Then you do a special combo to break the enemy's defense and send it flying in the air or knock it down to the ground. Then you use the boost bar to cut in line for combat and unleash your massive combos. Thne, if it's a boss, you have to repeat, over and over, until it's dead. There is no strategy. The only strategy is remembering to get the "focus" skill (which restores your EP...magic 10% with each stock command so you can keep healing and using buffs). This whole battle formula makes for some drawn out and pointless battles. I've yet to see a truly hard battle...unless you count me not having the patience as a difficulty factor. 

Luckily, after I flee the dungeon I'm in (which has a teh lamezor 30 minute timer, counting battle time), I have a pseudo dungeon and 2 real dungeons and then I can play something fun. However, my patience is about gone, so this will take far longer than it should. However, a good deal of the game and your abilities are locked until you play through a second time. So, with how crappy this game is, I'm not doing that. There's nothing like a cheap way to try to force replay in order to have the developers feel like they made a good game. 

I did, however, play some GT4 at my friend's place this weekend. Now I know I made the right decision in putting off buying this game. If I bought it now, I would definitely throw away X2. In fact, after playing GT4, as I would play X2 I could only think of how I'd rather be racing my 3000GT car from GT3 and my car from GT4. 

GT4 feels a little weird when I first picked it up. I think the physics were reprogrammed, with both good and bad consequences. Overall, once I play through a few races, this all became comfortable. Also, the number of options, tracks, races, cars, and game modes are insane. Like with the other GT games, you start with browsing for a new car (or used car). This alone can take hours as you check out the dozens of dealer showrooms and the two used dealerships and the classic car dealership. Then, you have both the dealerships and a special area of a dozen other merchants to buy some upgrades from. Then you have about 10 times the options in GT3 for where to race your first race...or you could just take your car around the world and take pictures of it. It's like all of the features of the past GT games were not even considered nearly enough to be a complete game, so on top of having all of them we have a new set of features that could make up their own game. Anyway, I only played a couple hours, so I don't want to rush to a judgment too soon (although my initial judgment calls this game hella sweet). 

On a silly note; I keep getting emails from various websites about how I've been added to their directory of links and how they would like the same favor in return.  I would usually find this to be a cool thing, except I like to keep my site dedicated to the more geekish of arts (like games, movies, music, anime, etc).  These sites, however, have a subject range from immigration to acting...which makes me wonder what the hell these people are smoking.  Actually, it really leaves me wondering why someone would use their tactics to build a link section.  For example, the immigration site found my disclaimer (which is about how I'm not some dick, but will be more than happy to throw around 1337 speak if I feel like it), probably through a simple web search for "asylum" (an immigration related word).  Or there's how my site was added to an acting site when they did an obvious search for "acting" and found one of my rants about "voice acting".  Anyway, with these random links to individual pages on the old Geek-Asylum site, I am now realizing more than ever how I need to deal away with the frame set up (these links have no links back to site since the left frame is absent).  Anyway, I'm still working on this, and will see what I can do.  For the time being, I'll just sit here confused about why I'm found on an immigration site.

Anyway, I'm hoping I can knock out X2 a little quicker. I really want to get this "game" over with so I can play something fun (like GT4 or RE4). So, it's time for me more of this movie. 


Malik (3/1/05)  

I've finally come to a possible conclusion on my never ending talk of eliminating frames from the Asylum. I decided that the easiest solution may be the best; that being flash animation. I was thinking about this one for a while, but I couldn't overcome the obstacle of price. Macromedia makes a good deal of flash and shockwave editors, but these all run in the hundreds to thousands of dollars to buy. This would be great if I was not just wanting to make a menu system that is easy to proliferate through every page on the site. However, it's hard to justify spending more money than I spend on rent each month just to make a menu system. 

So, I did some investigating. The first option I found was from CoffeeCup. They make a good variety of shareware applications, but they have the horrible disadvantage of having a shareware related phrase on your final product. I figured this would be a crappy way to make a simple menu system (to have it labeled with extra text). So, I did some looking and came across a few nice options from other shareware programs. Plus, if these work out fine and impress me (without the addition of a shareware related ad on the menus I make), I may even drop some cash on them. 

So, I spent some time this morning downloading a nice variety of shareware and trial programs that I'll give a test run tonight. If one works, I'll be revamping the entire site either Monday or Tuesday of next week (two days I have off of my day job and thus will give me the time I need to get this huge job done). Also, since I love to see what I can't afford (hence, like other people, I like GT games to see what cars I could never afford), I'll even try out a trial version of Marcomedia's Director program. It'll be like tasting geek truffles for a brief moment. 

Anyway, I did drop a nice chunk of time on Xenosaga 2 last night, as usual. This game started to impress me for a moment, until I decided to take care of some side quests before continuing the main quest. The side quests each take far too long to accomplish and usually have too crappy of a reward (like unlocking a new skill that I'll never use). So, after I blasted (as in: moved really slowly) through a few, I decided to abandon this crap. 

My biggest complaint with these side quests (the Good Samaritan Campaigns, as they are called in game) is that a good 25-30% cannot be accessed until I play through the game a second if I'll ever play this crap-tacular game a second time. I am barely able to handle one time through. A second would destroy the little sanity I have left after playing this far through the game. 

At least Xenosaga 2 did one thing that made me quite happy last night. There is a dungeon that has a timer that you must outrun on your way out from the very end of the dungeon. Normally, in an RPG with a timer, you get a feeling like the game developer hated you when a battle loads and as the characters are loaded you can see the timer ticking away. Then, after the battle, when your characters do their "battle over" pose, the timer keeps going. Well, in Xenosaga 2, the timer stops when the battle is loading and when the battle has ended. Between the moment the last enemy dies and the map screen returns (which included the awarded experience screen, the winning pose, and load times), the timer is stopped. Also, this timer is stopped when you face the required boss at the very end of the escape route. I cannot begin to tell you how much this impressed me. This is not only the best feature of Xenosaga 2 (beyond the plot), but it's something that's been long overdue in RPGs. 

Anyway, I blasted through the remainder of a dungeon (the one with a timer to escape), a good 6 or so side quests, and a pseudo-dungeon (the path leading to the next dungeon is treated like a dungeon in many regards). This leaves two dungeons and a handful of boss battles before I can throw this game back to EB and use the credit to buy something useful and worth my time (like GT4). Also, this means I'm really close to being able to start a fair and unbiased review of the game. Yes, I have admitted I hate the game, but this is not from bias, but rather from the game being a major let down.

Anyway, I have some flash animation tools to play with. Hopefully, if things work correctly, a little time playing around tonight can lead to some major overhauls on the site next week. Then...then, I'll finally shut up about hating my frame layout.


Malik (3/2/05)  

As Hannibal (from the A-Team) would say; I love it when a plan comes together. So, after working for a while at looking at some nifty options to eliminate frames and make the site look a little less like it's trapped in the 90's, I have come up with a few. The most important step is that I purchased a copy of Flashation. 

I was once, a long time ago, hardcore with programming. I can pull out a visual basic program in a few hours that could do some really fun things. I could program in the original BASIC, QBASIC, blah, blah, and make it look pretty spiffy. However, my skills have gone to crap and I'm not in the mood to learn how to code. Enter: Flashation. This will finally put some nice menus up on the site without forcing me to code them all. Anyway, this will make a nice departure from the navigation menu you should see in the left frame right now. 

Also, I've started to play around a bit more with Photoshop and ImageReady (both Adobe programs), and am starting to come up with a nice little banner to replace some of the plain old text you see at the top of the page. It's nothing special so far, but it will theory. 

Anyway, to wrap up this plan coming together, I am free from my day job for the first two days of next week. This means I can take some time next week to change every page I've made in the last year and get them ready to be sans frames. Sadly, this will be a hassle and a shit ton of work for me, but I'm willing to bite the bullet now to prevent having to do it later. Anyway, all of this works out for me to say that some nice changes are coming sometime around Tuesday. 

On to a different note of frustration; I am now at the boss of the next to last dungeon on Xenosaga 2. This means I can stop playing this horrible excuse for a game (and great excuse for a movie or series of some sort) in only a day or two. Then I'll be free! FREE! HEHEHEHE! 

Sorry, I got off topic. I should be finishing soon, which means a review will be in the works quite soon. I already know how the bulk of this review will look, but I don't know how much the ending will effect things...I mean if I'm actually left wanting more, that would be cool. I'm expecting the opposite, but who knows. I mean KOTOR2 was awesome until I got to the ending and then felt extremely disappointed. 

This game keeps fluctuating on difficulty like a tug-o-war game. That's what is really getting to me now. I mean the slow pace of the game is just a minor annoyance. The real frustration, for me right now at least, is from fighting a really hard enemy in one room and then fighting a really simple and wussy enemy in the next. 

In the end, the difficulty is easy enough to outmaneuver, but it's still annoying. I mean the game has 4 people in your party who are in the reserve position (they don't fight in combat unless you chose to swap out someone), and these reservists also regain some EP and HP between battles. This means that you rarely want to heal during combat since you can heal for free after combat...just have a reservist heal the party after the combat ends, and then after the next fight the reservist will probably have full EP again to do more healing. It negates the extreme difficulty of everything short of boss battles. 

Anyway, I feel the need to finish this game, if possible, tonight. I don't know for sure what I want to play after I am done with this crap-fest, but I want to play something else. If I try to play something else now, I'll never come back to Xenosaga 2, so I'm in a pretty lame situation here. My guess is that by the time I'm done with this game, either my violent urges or my need for speed will take control. If it's violence, then I'll either hit RE4 or re-play GTA:SA. If it's speed, then it's time for GT4. Maybe I'll just reward myself with some speed and some violence. It's hard to say since it's hard to think when a single game is taking your will to geek. 


Malik (3/3/05)  

I have to admit, I didn't get much time with Xenosaga 2 last night. I wanted to, but this game has worn down my endurance for crappy games. Each new battle only makes me feel more and more like abandoning X2 for something that's actually fun all of the time (not just fun only when a cut-scene is playing). Something like a GTA or GT game. 

I did, however, get to the final dungeon. I also got some really fun cut-scenes. In fact, it was only after these cut-scenes ended that my will to game ended. However, at the same time, I can see some problems developing in these great cut-scenes. Mainly, I see the issue that this game is bringing up far too many questions and has far too little time to properly handle them...which means Xenosaga 3 will once again focus on the same characters. 

This wouldn't be too bad of a problem, except after playing such a bad game as this I don't want to ever see anything directly related to this game again. I wouldn't mind if the next Xenosaga took place on either a parallel story arc, or if it dealt with a whole new time frame that deals with what happened after Shion and company bored the crap out of me. I really just don't want another game of the exact same characters (with only a small substitution or addition like how X2 was to the original). I know the abilities of these characters, I know their skills, I know their powers, I know their plot, and I know their weaknesses...I don't want to have that pounded into my head with another game of the same damned people. 

Sadly, the next Xenosaga will probably have all of the same people and will have either no changes to the roster, or only a minor change. I really cannot give a shit any less about Shion. KOS-MOS is boring and only serves as a tank in combat. Ziggy wants to die, so let him die. Jr. is interesting, to a point, but he's done all he should do. chaos would be an interesting character to retain, but only if they actually handle the mysteries of his origins. Momo is boring as hell...she's a little girl with some power who keeps wanting her "mommy". Jin may be an interesting character, like chaos, but only if they team him with a more interesting party for the bulk of the story. However, as I look at the obvious future of this series, I see all, or at least most, of the characters coming back to resume their adventures of being whiney and un-united. 

I just hope I can finish this game tonight. However, I have a feeling that I'll only get so far before the urge to take a break gets the better of me. So, my real guess is for it all to come to a close, for me, this weekend. Then I can start to tear this game apart in a fair review...yes, I said I'll bash it AND be fair because this game is really bad. It's not just that I don't personally like it, it's that it has so many flaws. I mean KOTOR had some bugs, but the developers tried and delivered a good experience...X2 stinks of a large budget on writers and animation experts, but a lack of budget and talent in the game mechanics...and a lack of game testers to say "this is boring". 

I'm also putting some nice effort into some touches to revamp the site with. I should still have everything up and running on Tuesday. It will be a hell of a lot of boredom but it will be worth it...and it won't be as boring to alter every page on the site to the new style as it will be to finish Xenosaga 2, so I'm up for it. I'll aim to have, at the very least, a complete elimination of the current frame setup and, hopefully, a nice new logo to replace my all text logo. In other words, I'm having to learn some fun new skills, but it's going to be great...I hope. 

Also, as a warning, there will probably be no Malik's Bitchings this week...again. It's not that I am wanting to slack off, but there's still no news or games worthy of bitching about...except Xenosaga 2, but I did that last week. I think the real solution for this will come when the next generation of consoles are further detailed, probably around E3. I don't want to have to wait that long, but it looks like the trend of the game industry right now is to hold off all major news until E3...blah. 


Malik (3/4/05)  

I played about an hour of Xenosaga 2 last night...I know, I want to finish the game as soon as possible, but it's hard. As I told my friend Bastich last night, this game reminds me of Saga Frontier. For those who didn't play that game, it was a really bad RPG with 7 scenarios you had to finish to get the real ending. The only thing is the level up system was a random new skill or stat after a battle, if you're lucky, and each scenario used the same characters, locations, abilities, items, blah, blah, but at starting stats each time. This meant that after you barely manage to beat a scenario (and it was hard since the level up system was so broken), you have 6 more to "look forward to". 

With SF, most people quit and sold the game off before even beating one lame quest...I got through 6 and was near the final boss of the 7th when my will broke. And it broke with authority. I was near the final boss and I just turned it off, put it on my shelf, and walked away. I usually will pick up an unbeaten game after I take a vacation from it. After 5 years, I sold SF (for almost nothing...but it felt like I was ripping off the game store) and never looked back. Also, SF was noted as one of the worst games ever made by Square, and I have to agree (beyond Star Ocean 3, which is more from the Enix side of things, this is the worst title Square was ever involved in). 

Well, Xenosaga 2 is giving me that same feeling. In fact, my will to play it broke about 2 days ago (and has been weakened for about 2 weeks). I'm now only playing so I can write a fair review of a game I beat instead of a game I gave up on, just so I can back up my review with a simple fact; I beat this piece of shit. I am hoping to finish it either tonight or tomorrow, but that will still be a pretty tall order. 

Anyway, I had a far better offer last night of playing some GT4, and that's an offer you can't refuse when the alterative is Xenosaga 2. 

I played some really cool 1 on 1 duels with Bastich. Some of the best were the all American redneck rally of the Ford F-150 vs. the Dodge Ram, the Dukes of Hazard revisited (through the narrow streets of some European town, the orange 1970 Dodge Charger versus a 1969 Camero), and the Scion challenge through Seattle (the A and the B went one on one to have the xB finish only 0.4 seconds out). Anyway, this game is ridiculously fun two player and the split screen mode has the best resolution I've seen for a split screen game.

I'm still really tempted to get this game when I put Xenosaga 2 aside, but I may have to wait...Xenosaga 2 makes me feel not just like I want speed, but like I should be violent, which would be where GTA:SA would come back into play. Either way, the goal is fast cars.

As you might have noticed, I haven't mentioned Malik's Bitchings yet...well, there's none, once again, to speak of this week. I would like to post something, but there's absolutely nothing to seriously bitch about. However, I have been dedicating the time I should spend on this one the site maintenance that will go into effect on Tuesday. I think things look pretty good with my work so far, but I'll still need to put in a lot of time before I can be sure. It'll be a busy weekend. Especially since I'll try to start a Xenosaga 2 review as soon as I finish the game...which I hope is really soon...I want out...need to sell this game back before people realize how bad it is and the price for trade-in goes to shit.


Extra Bit:

Consider this my Malik's Bitchings for the week.  It's a little small and a little later, but I feel like sharing.

So, I checked out Penny Arcade today and found a link I would like to share with you all.  It's on CBS News and is an interview with Jack Thompson.  This is the man most of us associate to baseless lawsuits against Rockstar for the supposed mass murders that are caused by GTA.  Just take a minute and read this.  Keep in mind what the question being asked is and what the question that Mr. Thompson must be answering.  They are not the same.

For example, when Mr. Vitka (the interviewer, who seems to be of an open mind...thank you Mr. Vitka) asked if sex and age plays a role in the supposed violence caused by violent games, Mr. Thompson answers a question more along the lines of, "Does sexual themes in games tie into violent behavior?", not if the GENDER of a person is a factor.  The age part was completely ignored.  Way to be open minded and ready to converse, Mr. Thompson.  Go ahead and check out that Q&A (the fourth question).

By the way, I'm a scientist.  I should throw that out in the open.  In fact, I am officially a researcher in the biology side of science.  Human (and microbiology...I am trying to be frank here) to be precise.  Shit, I grow human tissue in flasks for a living.  I have to understand these things to not get my ass fired.  That said, Mr. Thompson is a freakin' lawyer.  That shit about "dendrites" is completely unsound.  I had to say that.  You build new neural connections with different activities, but the neural connections made when you learn to better control CJ on San Andreas are not the same ones that help you to fire a freakin' gun.  They are unrelated skills.

The only part Mr. Thompson had right was about this; parents don't pay enough attention to what their kids are up to.  That is 100% true and is, if anything, a reason to not baselessly blame the game industry.  If a kid skips school, in many places, the parents are held accountable.  I'm not saying that's 100% right to do, but put that together with parents not watching their kids playing these evil games...see where it's going.  The law would say the games are not to blame, just like a movie theater is not to blame when a kids skips school and watches a movie.

Ultimately, this is all a nice load of bullshit, and definitely worth a good laugh.  The real answer, which I'd like to put forward, is that if a kid is f$#@ed up in the head, then it doesn't matter what they will take part in.  They are still f#$@ed up in the head.  If a kid is going to kill someone, maybe it was just the KID'S fault.

I just look forward to when some of the geek elite are interviewed.  Those should be some good interviews in which the questions being asked and the questions being answered are one and the same.