Malik (3/14/05)  

Well, despite what I thought of the GDC, this year is turning out quite unexpectedly. Usually the GDC serves as a chance for the major companies to show a preview of what will wow us at E3. However, on top of the news I posted on Friday of what Nintendo is up to, there is still more news coming in that surprises me (of course I thought there would be news back in January that would interest us geeks and...well, this is a weird year, so far). 

As I found at Gamespot, Peter Molyneux and Lionhead had some nice things to show off in the world of Black and White 2. There was a demo of this game shown off at the GDC, and it sounds nothing short of amazing. The game uses a far more simplistic approach to control (no HUD...just a left click or a right click), but achieves a far more complex final control scheme. You can protect your people, be a tyrant, play with your avatar/pet, set traps for enemy warriors, set off natural disasters. It is all so deep and yet so simple. However, I'll just skip the major details since I'm still pissed off about Molyneaux abandoning us XBox players with the "Fable Beta" incident (as I call it). 

So, I am still playing mainly GTA:SA. I want to get back to GT4, but I have to say that SA is a far superior game to almost anything else ever made (well...besides the horrible glitches and flying planes being a bitch). So, let me set the stage for a weird experience I had; I had just bought Verdant Meadows (the abandoned airstrip...the dreaded home of pilot school). I knew my next mission was the damned "Learning to Fly" mission, so I decided to have some fun. The first stop for fun is always Ammu-Nation. I had about $150,000 after buying the flight school, so I dropped some major money. Namely, I was down to $75,000 after my shopping spree. I aimed to never buy weapons again during the game (at least out of necessity). I was fully armed with the 9mm (I'm hitman level, so I like the duel-wield over the single Dessert gives a Chow Yun Fat type of feel to things), duel-wielded sawed-off shotguns (the running-man's shotgun), thousands of Uzi rounds, about 2000 rounds of the M5, armor, and enough grenades to take down an army. So, I decided that I had enough preparation for the fun ahead of me, and started the one obstacle in the way; flight school. 

I passed the easy first two missions on the first try. Then I managed the somewhat bad third mission on the first try. Then I passed the worst of the tests (the fourth...take-off, fly through a circle of rings, and land) on the first try. After that, I passed everything except the loop-the-loop on the first try (loop-the-loop involved my controlled not being calibrated correctly, so it took two tries...which meant all the missions prior to this were with an un-calibrated control...maybe that's the secret). Finally, I got to the sky-diving test. 

The sky-diving test is the easiest one. All you have to do is free fall for about ten to fifteen seconds, and then pull the cord and float onto your target as close to center as possible. Also, I should mention that I haven't saved since I bought all that ammo (prior to taking any flight tests...but what could go wrong? You can't die in a test situation...hell, if I fail a flight test, I end it with a big crash to restart...and I'm still living after that). You should see where this is going. 

I start my free fall, and then pull the cord when the game tells me to. The chute is open, and I'm falling towards the ground. I'm not slowly descending towards the ground...I'M FALLING WITH A PARACHUTE OPEN! I try to wiggle the controls, but CJ is 100% unresponsive. Thus CJ hits the ground and I'm given the regular chance to try again. So, as I start to fall on my second attempt, I can see my health meter is flashing and almost non-existent. In fact, once this test is done, I'd die from the slightest hit from anything. That's how my health meter looks, at least. 

I manage to land perfectly on my second sky-dive attempt. I mean I landed dead-center of the target. I still get marked off 2% for unknown reasons, but who cares? I sure don't. I passed the exams. I know this since it says "mission passed" on the screen. I am king. Then, as the mission passed message fades away, CJ falls to the ground...dead. Along with all my weapons...all gone. Everything. At least I wake up at...this is not the hospital...this is the Las Venturas airport?! So, down to $75000, I try to reclaim the weapons I can from the store (I was tempted to re-start from my last save, but the prospect of my luck running out on flight school was too much for me to face). Sadly, there's no way to quickly re-acquire the rocket launcher stock-pile I got from one of Torreno's missions, my katana, my brass knuckles, and my money won't go far enough to refresh my sniper rifle supply (I had managed to get about 100 rounds for it from Snail Trail). 

So, I'm at a point in which I should be enjoying the game...but it's hard to continue when such a lame bug happened. This is the worst glitch I've ever seen on a GTA game. 

Anyway, to not just bitch...I found a killer way to finish the medic and fire-fighter missions. They focus around starting the missions in Angel Pine. There's a hospital, and thus the medic missions are so easy. You only have about 6 blocks of city to cover on your routes. Then, with the fire-fighter missions, you only have a small city to start in and then a lot of straight streets with no side streets (real easy). Plus, since the fire-fighter missions now give you fire-immunity and the medic increases your life gauge, it's definitely good to get those missions done, however quickly you can. 


Malik (3/15/05)  

I was thinking about the amazing new features and details that are being promised by Peter Molyneaux in Black and White 2, along with the speech given by Kaita Takahashi (Mr. Katamari Damacy) at the GDC (a summary is found on Gamespot, here), and I came to a couple of conclusions. I know, it's a little early to form conclusions on a game that isn't out, but just follow this... 

B&W was a really fun and innovative game, but it pushed technology pretty hard. However, the major flaws with this game all seemed to come from something other than the use of technology. The flaws were from minor issues. The most annoying one I can think of is the lack of an ability to skip certain dialogues. This is fine for a first play through the game, but it really can annoy the crap out of someone who had to restart their game for some reason or another...or anyone who is just playing a second (or third, or fourth, or...) time. The one that still sticks in my mind, over three years since I last played B&W is when you encounter, early in the game, a trio of ship-wrights. These little guys really like their ship/arc that they are building. I say more power to them. However, they also like to sing. 

Anyone who played this scene more than once will undoubtedly remember how you cannot skip this song. It is long, it is annoying, and it wasn't even much fun or informative the first time you played through it. My PC freaked out at one point, when I was playing B&W, and I was forced to restart the game (my save file got corrupted). So, when I played through this again, I kept wanting to skip this several minute long annoyance...but nothing would work. You could turn off the game, you could watch the damned thing, or you could walk away, grab a snack, eat said snack, and then return to the end of the song. 

So, Mr. Takahashi said, at the GDC, how games are being based too much on new technology and not enough on just trying to be fun. He also said that we should work with what we have, technology-wise, before worrying about the next generation of hardware. So, I propose that instead of being so concerned about how amazing B&W2 will be, with it's high level of detail and simulated ants, Mr. Molyneaux should first address the more basic of if we can skip the damned cut-scenes this next time around. I really could care less about ants when I have singing people trying to piss me off. 

I hate the concept of trying to play a game and have fun when I know that my time could be better spent. If a game is good, then I'm usually happy...but if that game turns to crap (like Xenosaga 2 did) and becomes a giant time waster that gives little in return (like XS2), then I'll be pissed. I want a solid return on my time investment. I mean in GTA:SA, if I have to reload a game and repeat a mission, I have the wonderful ability to skip most cut-scenes (and they usually are not as long as the singing in B&W). That is a great feature that inspires one to play the game again. A lack of this is a form of punishment for those who would actually feel compelled enough to replay a game. 

Anyway, I'm still playing GTA:SA...and loving it. This is such a great game the first time through, and I think it feels even better the second time (since I know enough to know what missions are worth a closer look, how to control some of the bitchier of vehicles, like the airplanes, etc). Plus, I never feel like I'm wasting my time. Even if I'm just driving from point A to point B, I still know my driving skill is increasing, and I never know if something amazing will happen at random... 

Like how I was driving to Las Venturas last night. I was on the freeway when a car cut me off one too many times. My vehicle burst into flames, so I bailed. I didn't even try to cause what followed. A taxi zoomed along side my speeding ball of fire, and then my car exploded. The taxi caught fire, the driver got out, another car approached, and then another explosion and a new vehicle is on fire. Then the traffic jam started and I saw a police man go flying over my head...shortly followed by his motorcycle. A total of 30+ cars blew up in that horrible, since I was fire-proof (from doing fire truck missions), I was able to get a perfect view of the carnage from the flames of the original few cars. It was nothing short of amazing. It's this type of incident that makes me appreciate all that Rockstar puts into their work. 

Also, last night, I saw the Japanese movie "Pistol Opera". Velveeta had been wanting to watch this movie for a long time, so we finally watched it...well, she watched it and I watched half of it before I started to play Breath of Fire (GBA) on my DS. I hate it when a decent enough concept is made for a movie, but the director, writers, etc, decide that a more artistic approach is needed. The movie is constantly filled with surrealistic visuals (like bright red flowers in front of a drab house, or a little girl dancing for no point while singing a poorly spoken song about Humpty Dumpty in very poor English), very poorly scripted dialogue (I know translations can be bad, but I doubt it's the translations that made the dialogue change subjects every two lines), and very poorly choreographed actions (if you get shot, react immediately, not a full two seconds later). This movie would've been funny if it wasn't so damned artsy. This is the worst example of why people often times try to steer clear of art-films. Plus, the basic feel of this movie almost screamed "Tarintino Rip-Off!", except without the witty dialogue (although, I think the writters tried...and failed), well choreographed action, and way too many surreal visuals. 

Well, that's about it for today. Hopefully I'll be able to enjoy some GTA tonight instead of being subjected to lame art-films. 


Malik (3/16/05)  

According to a report at Gamespot, Nintendo's President (Mr. Iwata) has announced that development kits are out for the Revolution. It sounds like, for once, Nintendo is taking the pro-active approach with the next generation. Usually, Nintendo has been one of the slowest consoles to market in a generation, but this may be the time that changes things. In fact, this time around, it sounds like Nintendo has cleaned up a lot of their old decision making problems (like taking too long to release a console, focusing solely on children as seen with the DS, going with online). This may be the year that Nintendo comes back to being a giant in the game industry, once again. Not that they aren't big, but they will be full-on giants again...assuming they don't mess everything up again. 

I'm still left with a fear about the revolution, however. As online games have gained popularity, the popularity of four-player split-screen games has started to weaken. In fact, with XBox Live, most multiplayer XBox games have been only four+ players online. So, if Nintendo also follows suit with the Revolution, are we going to see Nintendo pull back from split-screen? While a full screen with a full set of team-mates, as seen with just about any online game, is a fun thing, there's still something to be said for being able to play a game with a bunch of people at the same place. It's just more personal and social. 

I mean last weekend my friend Bastich was looking for a good four-player co-op game (or at least something that's not direct aggression towards each other), and we came up with a big load of nothing. There was nothing that we could sit down with, with a few friends, and all play together. There were a good deal of fun looking online multiplayer games, but that is just not the same when we all wanted to hang out and be social. 

I'm just hoping that this type of story is not going to become even more common when Nintendo embraces the online world. Nintendo has always been the last safe haven for people who wanted to play an offline multiplayer game. XBox used to do this pretty well before Live came along, and PS2 even did this somewhat well before the online buzz began with them. Ultimately, while online works great on a work-night, when I can't afford to waste my precious free-time with finding a way to join a bunch of people for offline games, it just doesn't fly with me on a weekend. I mean that's the time I want to hang out and be social. Blah...I ramble. 

Last night, I went a little crazy with my game purchases. It started as what my friends and I like to call "shoe-shopping for guys". That would be some browsing at a game store. It started innocently enough, but next thing I knew, nostalgia pulled me in. So, I bought Ys for the PS2, Mr. Driller (at long last) for the DS, and then I went online to see if anyone in the world sold It's Mr. Pants for the GBA. Well, I found a copy for cheap online, so I also bought that. For those who don't know, It's Mr. Pants is a really unique looking puzzle game from Rare (published, I believe, by THQ) that came out a couple weeks back, yet no stores seem to sell it...maybe it's the name, the obscurity, the stick-figure looking dude in underwear on the cover...who knows. All I know is this looks like a fun puzzle game that no store seems to be selling. 

Anyway, instead of playing any of my new games, I was still too obsessed with GTA:SA. I passed a few missions, sold some cars at the docks, and went on a few violent rampages. Then I played Mr. Driller for a few games. Then I thought about GTA. Hopefully I'll play some Ys tonight so I can tell you all if it's really as average as the game reviewers seem to think. It looks like a good old-school Ys game to me (which may be why people think it's mediocre...). 


Malik (3/17/05)  

So, I still couldn't break the charm of GTA:SA. I wanted to play Ys, but it's just not going to happen all the well until I'm able to put GTA to rest, once again. So, I played more SA...and Mr. Driller (I can break the charm of a deep game like SA, but only for something short and non-continuous, like Mr. Driller). 

I got through a couple more missions, including one of my all time least favorites. In fact, thinking about it, I think this mission is far more annoying, to me, than Learn to Fly ever could be. I'm talking about Don Peyote. It's a simple mission of picking up two people on a mountain in a dessert. Simple, right? Well, not really. You need to bring a vehicle that can hold more than one passenger to pick them up. As any who play GTA would know, the more passengers a vehicle can handle, the less fun it will be to take up a steep and winding dirt road up a mountain. So, after I got my Admiral (standard 4-door car) to the mountain, it managed to flip over on a rock. So, I had to find another ride. 

I patrolled the roads and near-by towns for about 30 minutes, only finding 2 door SUVs, semi trucks (only two door), and all type of motorcycles. Eventually I found a Burrito (van). So, I had to drive at a ridiculously slow speed (since vans will tip over it you look at them funny) up a winding mountain...then I had to drive carefully back down to not flip and kill my passengers. Then, I had a minor cop chase, in an easy to tip vehicle. That was a major annoyance. Luckily, when I was returning to Las Venturas (you ultimate destination), I came across a Cab (Taxi), and that made the last couple of miles far more bearable. 

It's not that Don Peyote is anywhere near being a hard mission; it's just a very annoying mission since you will have a good deal of problems if your vehicle you take from LV is either not a 4-door, or it gets destroyed prior to picking up your passengers. You'd imagine there could be some 4-door SUVs floating around the wastelands...I mean, I would imagine this. 

At least the rest of GTA was smooth sailing last night and brought me the type of fun that no game (other than Xenogears) could bring me in a second play-through. Which is why I think I'll have no chance of playing Ys until I lay GTA to sleep again...which only will come with a thorough beating of the game. 

I also started to realize that the seller I bought It's Mr. Pants from on may be jerking me around. It's been about 46 hours without a confirmation. I'm not surprised, since this seller is listing the game for about half the price of anyone else. I'm expecting to be denied Mr. Pants...but I'll just go with something more responsive and reliable than independent sellers once the deal is canceled due to no response. At least has the game for a massively cheap price (around $17). 

Anyway, I'm thinking of whether or not to write a review for Mr. Driller (DS). I mean it's a fun game, but I don't know if it's really worth a review...I mean it's like reviewing Tetris or Columns. Which means it's a short and boring review. But then again, I need to write something, since there's nothing to bitch about this week. So, who knows. 


Malik (3/18/05)  

As an RPG geek, I found this, at Gamespot, to be rather interesting. It seems Sega has finally revealed some details about Phantasy Star Universe. Not much...but a little more than the trailer from E3 last year showed. It seems this title is slated for release on the PS2 and PC in Japan. So, sadly, there's no word of a US release...yet. However, given Sega's track record of bringing PS games to the US, I think it's not too early to get our hopes up. I just hope Sega doesn't pull some sort of Japan-only crap. 

Also, it seems the plot is slowly being revealed. In another star system that's separate from Algo and the PSO universe, an alien race is terrorizing a group of three life-sustaining planets. It's up to the Guardians (which is where our new heroes will be from) to protect and defeat. Pretty standard for a brief plot summary, but PS games always shine in the deeper details. 

Beyond that, all the news is still focusing on business. I mean game stocks are booming, product line-ups are being shown to the world, and WoW is still growing in population (far faster than I bet Blizzard can handle...). It's all pretty standard issue. 

On that note, I'm still doing my standard issue stuff. In other words, I've been pumping more and more time into GTA:SA, and no time at all into Ys. I know, I bought the game, so I should show it some love, but SA is too much game to give up when I'm somewhat close to finishing it, again. 

I also had my order for It's Mr. Pants get confirmed, so I canceled my CDUniverse order. However, for those looking for this most elusive of games, I'd check out CDUniverse, which has the game, and has it for half the price of anywhere else (except the seller I am getting it from on Half). I just hope this game is worth the hassle. 

On another random-ish note, those on the East coast are in luck. Less Than Jake (the band that holds me in their influence like only Xenogears can) is going on tour soon. It will be a bunch of Fueled By Ramen bands playing with a bunch of Drive Thru Records bands...with LTJ headlining. Should be some really good shows...which won't come to the West Coast...blah! Also, LTJ is selling an extremely limited release of a new B is for B-Sides remix CD, only at these shows. So, I'm extra bummed about this. Anyway, on the odd chance that someone who hits this site goes to the concert and buys an extra of this CD, email me and I'll be more than happy to buy it from you...before I have to resort to being price gouged on Ebay. 

Anyway, my weekend will hopefully hold some time for me to be re-introduced to Ys. It's been about 5 years since I've played a Ys game, and I now have one sitting in my living room...staring at me with such a sad wants does. Too bad that GTA:SA demands so much of my affection too. Anyway, I'll try to play some of Ys this weekend and then get back to you all on Monday about how good it was. Despite how it's been torn apart by reviews, I have a good feeling...I mean it's Ys, after all.