Malik (7/12/04)

A new weeks is upon us, and for once I have some cool things from the start of this week.  First off, it is only 1 or 2 days (depending on the market you live in and the stores you frequent) before Tales of Symphonia is on the shelves.  I say it cryptically like that for a reason; the ship date is tomorrow, the 13th, however some stores will rush the game on to the shelves in order to please their customers, while other stores will view this as another game with too much potential to just waste shelf space.  So, the first type of store will have it ready tomorrow, while the latter will usually get it to us in another day to try to sell the bigger releases of the week first.  Either way, it wont be long until a good RPG for the Gamecube is upon us...now that is something I know I can't say every week...or even every year...Nintendo claims to be aiming for a more mature audience these days, yet the number of RPGs on their console is pathetic.

On another note, in the more news-worthy range; Sony is promising some impressive things for the first half of 2005 along the lines of their two upcoming platforms and a bit of E3.  Anyway, you can click to see more.

I finished Phantasy Star IV a couple days ago, and while I wait for ToS I've decided to pull out another classic.  I know, I know...I have Prince of Persia to play, but I just can't get into the mood for this great game.  I think I'm in too much of an RPG-style mood lately to get into a platformer/action title.  So, as I was saying, I've pulled Sanitarium off of the shelf.  For those who haven't tried this game (and I know many people haven't played this massively underrated title), this is one of the best games you've never heard of.  Basically it's an old-school style adventure title for the PC.  In Sanitarium, you control your character a lot like you would in a classic Sierra adventure game (like King's Quest I-VII) with simple mouse icons to move, talk, get, use, etc.  However, what sets this title apart from the other classic adventure PC games is the setting.

When you start Sanitarium, you see a short cut scene of you talking with your wife on a cell phone as you drive home (on windy deserted roads...as all cliché stories must begin) when you have an horrific accident.  The next thing you know, you awaken in a insane asylum with your face completely covered in bandages.  From this point, you begin a deep and suspenseful trip through reality and insanity.  Before long you realize that you're trapped in your unraveled mind as your body sits in a hospital in a coma.  What comes next is somewhat obvious; you need to struggle with your inner demons and regain consciousness.  Long story short, this game redefines the levels of horror in a video game as you travel through mental worlds that deal with anything from you living out the death of your sister as a child, to a messed up mental world of children in a demented land without adults (done in a way that's different than the usual way this storyline is often presented), to a land of ancient Incan sacrifices, even to a setting where you play a super hero who must defeat an army of giant insects.  While many of these aspects have been presented (in some form) in the past with a high level of cheesiness, Sanitarium presents them with a feeling that can scare the shit out of you.

Anyway, I'm not trying to present a review or something...just trying to explain a great game that I know far too few people ever played.  Well, speaking of which, I think I need to.


Malik (7/13/04)

Tales of Symphonia is in transit for most people right now, which sadly means I'm not playing it right now.  However, it should be out tomorrow at most game stores (although some delays have hit certain areas of the country...but that doesn't matter to me since I know it will be here tomorrow here).  So, at least on the bright side of things, I can continue with my nostalgia kick.

I almost forgot how great of a game Sanitarium is.  Sadly, too many geeks don't know this gem, which is why I can not state strongly enough that people should pick it up from half.com or whatever you online pawn shop of choice is (half has it for less than $10, before shipping).  It is one of those great games that all geeks need to experience.  Plus it's old enough to run on the crappiest of computers (I mean it asks if you'd like to install DirectX 5 when you install the game), yet still look good enough to be entertaining for new players...well, except for the interlaced video (I never could stand that crap).

Anyway, there is not much to say today since I'm still without ToS, and since the only news of interest (for me, at least) today was that ToS shipped.  So, I think I'll leave things short today and get back to my beloved Sanitarium (well, beloved until ToS is in my hands tomorrow...then Sanitarium will once again have to wait on the shelf collecting dust for another time when I'm going through a geek-drought).


Malik (7/14/04)

Well, I don't believe in dropping the "F-Bomb" on this site...but I do believe in using other wordings for certain "naughty" words...so, with that in mind;

F*** EB!  F*** the f***ing managers, the f***ing employees, and especially the upper-f***ing management for the chain.  Yes, I am in a pretty pissy mood, and for a f***ing good reason.  I pre-ordered Tales of Symphonia a while (a loooong while) ago.  Plus, when I pre-ordered, I decided to drop the entire f***ing amount (over $50 since I live in the f***ing great state of Washington, which is home to some of the worst f***ing sales tax in the country) on the pre-order.  True, I could save some money (interest) by waiting on paying more than a $10 deposit until I get the game, but I figured, "hell, I'll be playing the game on it's release date, so why should I give a f***!".  So, am I playing ToS?  F*** no!  Why not, you ask?  Because for some f***ing reason there are no f***ing ma and pa video game stores anymore.  So, what does that have to do with anything?  Simple; at those good old non-national-chain stores, if you pre-order/reserve a f***ing game, they will make sure you get one on the day of it's release.  They don't f***ing allow more f***ing pre-orders than they will receive in the first shipment.  Does EB do the same f***ing thing?  F*** NO!  They over sell games and they even (as a policy) only set aside a certain percentage of their original shipment for pre-orders.  It is a fact that some copies are allowed to go on the shelves, as it was, to be sold to walk-ins.  So, for people, like me, who have f***ing day jobs and don't have a mommy answering my every demand (like going to the store when they open to get the first copy), we get f***ed up the arse.  I would think that, in a world that gives a f*** about customers (which is not a world we live in), that those who ordered first and those who payed the most towards the pre-order should get the f***ing game first!  Does this make sense?  I think so.  However, I instead had to wait for a clerk to tell me that ToS was sold out, since the f***ing clerk was on the phone trying to answer some dumbass kid's question about how to play multiplayer on ToS!  F***!  At least I...well, there is nothing I can say...I work a job, and deal with a lot of crap during the day, and since I pre-ordered (which according to the f***ing annoying low-budget EB commercials on G4 guarantees a copy of the f***ing game), and don't have some mommy at my beck and call to get every little thing for me, so I just get (or got) f***ed.  At the least, they should have told me, when I placed my pre-order, something along the lines of, "sorry, we are not accepting any more pre-orders since we have reserved all units from the first shipment," or "we can place you on a pre-order list for the second or third shipment, but the first one is sold out".  However, I placed my order long enough ago that I should have been told, "you WILL get a unit from the first shipment".  I miss when a pre-order was a magical thing that meant (this would be back from my days of being a grade school student) being able to rub it in the face of my friends when I had the game on the first day and they didn't have shit...of course those were also the days of ma and pa game stores, and not these dark days we live in of only department stores, Gamestop, and f***ed up EB.

Damn, I'm pissed.  I was informed that another shipment should be in, "tomorrow, or Friday...or sometime soon" (I love f***ing vague answers, EB) but I will be forced to work late every day for the next...who knows how long...I specifically planned for getting this game today.  I arranged my schedule so I would have today free, and suffer the rest of the following week so I could get this game before the stores closed at night.  Well, that plan just got f***ed by EB's policy of over-selling reservations.  F*** EB!

Did I mention this; you know how they get your phone number to let you know when your pre-order is ready for pickup?  Well...ummm...my answering machine says that EB once again said, "F*** YOU MALIK!" by not even telling me the game was in...good thing I'm a hardcore geek and not one of the f***ing little bitches who probably bought the game because it looked cool (I know many little kids who've never heard of Tales games bought this or had their mommy buy it since it looked pretty...even though RPGs are out of their range of geek-desires...f***!  Because of these people, I'm short on ToS about now).

Anyway, I'm pissed (as if I needed to say that), so I'm just going to learn the lesson of;


and continue my day as if this didn't happen...minus the time I would be playing ToS...F*** YOU EB!  At least their really low-budget commercials that constantly piss me off from the condescending tone of the "experts at EB" (you can "trust the experts at EB"...yeah, and I can trust all those cool spams I get that will enlarge my dong or hook me up with an easy $50,000 a month from my home f***ing business) make them sound like they give a shit...of course giving a shit and sounding like you give a shit are two different things...one of which grants you loyal customers, and the other gives you pissed off geeks who wont go back for anything (there are about 30 games stores within a 15 minutes drive of my apartment, so this would not be an empty threat or some shit, but rather a simple statement)...I'll leave you now to figure out which is which.  Also, if you think I'm a little more pissed than I should be, then check this out from the EBgames.com site;

We cut off the in-store pickup option a few days before we pick up the product from the publisher. This gives us time to plan the quantity we need to send to each store. We suggest that you pre-order early so as not to be left out!

I pre-ordered early from an actual store...but I got "left out" of getting my f***ing reservation.  Yup...they planned the right amount of quantity needed for each store.  Once again, F*** EB AND THEIR DAMNED F***ING BULL SHIT!



Malik (7/14/04)

Update:  Well, after I blew off some steam by mock-swearing on my last post, I checked out some of the gamefaqs.com message board threads about ToS, and I learned that anyone who pre-ordered got their copy of ToS.  So, this led to me taking my bitching to a lower power...I called EB to let them know what I thought.

Well, the manager was the one who answered the phone, and after explaining how I pre-order in order to guarantee a copy of a game, he said that they accidentally put one too many copies of the game on the shelf and that this is not regular for a game that was pre-ordered to not be reserved.  So, I say F*** EB's employees still, since one of the morning staff members f***ed me.  However, the manager promised me a refund of 10% of the game price to make up for this.  So, I still don't like EB, but I will possibly give them my business in the future (it is the closest game store to my home, so my laziness appreciates this).  So, I should get the game tomorrow, but I still feel ripped off.  Also, I've heard of rumors of pre-orders getting some bonus crap with their game, so I better get this shit (that I'll probably never even look at anyway, but is rightfully mine by pre-order) despite them f***ing up my order, or I'll be pissed again.  Of course the real losers (beside myself) in this deal is the Geek-Asylum, since I won't be able to post anything about this game as soon as I should have.

Anyway, that's the rest of the story...for now.


Malik (7/15/04)

Well, the experts at EB finally got me the game I should have been freakin' playing last night...that being Tales of Symphonia.  So, I'm going to cut this short and play.  More on ToS after I catch up on some lost playing time...F*** you very much EB!

However, on the news front, Doom 3, the masterpiece of vaporware, has gone gold...too bad I don't give a shit about this anymore.


Malik (7/16/04)

I have a moral lesson for everyone before we get started...I know, this is a bit out of the ordinary, but I figure this is one of my non-geek lessons I've learned the hard way that should be shared with other potential victims; 

If you are being supervised by someone for something you're doing, never do you absolute maximum amount of work possible at any given time, or it WILL bite you in the ass. For example, with my day job, I have a procedure I'm working on that takes a lot of effort and patience that I can do once a day with no problem, and I can do twice in a day with a lot of stress and a good deal of insanity (and caffeine). So, I once decided to do two of this procedure in a day, and my supervisor was quite pleased...and now I'm expected to do so every day...which is leading to our beloved Malik going slowly insane with stress. So, today's moral lesson, never slack off, but also never go beyond the call of duty in anything unless you want to do so every time you do whatever it is you're doing...this applies to more than just jobs/careers (my parents hit me with this when I once volunteered to do extra chores as a kid for one week...my load of chores was forever increased, until I moved away...). 

So, on to more geekish things; I have been playing a good deal of Tales of Symphonia in the last 24 hours to make up for EB screwing me over on Wednesday. So far I think I can say a few things for certain. 

Firstly, about the voice acting; The voice acting is horrible, in terms of what voices are appearing in ToS. These include mature Yugi from Yu-Gi-Oh! and Robin from Teen Titans. These voices are not always a bad thing, but when the characters they are attached to sound like they should have completely different voices, it causes some annoyance. 

Also, on the voice acting note; there are these small side events called "skits" in ToS. They are set events that are 100% optional that will show some back story dialogue between the current party members in regards to the current state of the plot. For example, in one skit the main character, Lloyd, has recently picked up an item to get through a dungeon and after he leaves the dungeon he realizes he still is holding said item. So, in the skit he contemplates keeping the item, and his friend Genis (your party's wizard) tries to tell him to return the item but in the end he gives up since Lloyd is so attached to the idea of keeping it. This is a cool little addition to telling the plot, in the same exact method as the "PA" events in Star Ocean 2. However, the graphics for these skits are simple little portraits of the involved characters with their mouths moving in time to the words they are speaking. Also, the text automatically appears and is replaced according to the speed at which they say their lines. This is all well and good, except the script is passing you by with no chance to watch the characters' faces and sometimes too quickly to properly read. This should be solved by the voice actors, except ToS was not 100% finished when Namco released it...how was it not 100% done? They ran out of time for recording the voice acting for the skits. So, when a skit comes up, you have to read at the speed that the actors were meant to read their lines (since the text doesn't stop), while a lack of audio is obviously present (or not present), while you look at some rather simple and pathetic looking portraits (assuming you can look at them as you strugle to keep up to speed on the non-stop text). 

Anyway, the plot is a lot better than some people would lead you to think (like the reviewers at Game Informer who said something to the affect that this plot seems to be made by an unimaginative child who is addicted to FFX). You play a student at a town where a chosen girl, Colette, is also a student. This chosen girl is to receive, shortly after the game begins, a holy mission to save the world from the Desians (a group of mostly half-elves who are bent on over-throwing society as Lloyd knows it). Before long, due to your friend Genis, you get banished from your village and this gives you the chance to join Colette on her holy mission (which you were forbidden from joining...but being banished from your home, you have a good excuse to join in the adventure). Anyway, the plot so far is quite intriguing and the character development blows anything from the FF series out of the water. 

Lastly, for today, I'll mention the battle system. It is a lot like a 3D version of the battle system on previous Tales games, or better yet, it's like the battle system on Star Ocean 2 (which was always like a 3D Tales of Destiny). You can select different style of strategy for you CPU controlled characters (you only control a single character in battle...or you can even make all players CPU controlled), and you can tell them what spells and abilities are acceptable for use in battle. Plus, you can always stop the action to give someone a direct command. Speaking of action, the battles can be fast and furious. You have the options to jump, block, attack with a combination of analogue stick directs to thrust, jeb, uppercut, etc, slide back from danger, use spells, special moves (you can program these, for quick use, to the B button plus a combination of a direction of the analogue stick or the C stick...think Smash Melee and the B button on that game), and there is total freedom of movement. Plus the battles can last as little as about 5-10 seconds, so you never have to worry about the boring and long battles of FF games as you pound the enemies in record time.

So, long story short, so far I'm loving this game. It has a look and feel that is both new and old (good old) and refreshing in the way that only a classic RPG seems to feel. I can say, in all honesty, I have not felt this way about a non-strategy RPG (in other words, not Disgaea or La Pucelle Tactics) since Star Ocean 2 (that would be a game from 1999). I'll keep you posted on my thought on ToS. Expect a quite favorable review by mid next week.

Anyway, check out my new issue of Malik's Bitchings...see I didn't forget.