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Malik (8/22/05)  

Personally, I have no love for graffiti. I one hand, it's seen as vandalism, and on the other hand it's seen as art. Either way, it's not my thing. However, I can say the same of the art of Salvador Dali or Van Gosh, who are widely accepted artists. So, while I don't give a flying f#@$ one way or another in this, it seems that New York City has canceled a promotional event to both push Mark Ecko's Getting Up and to exhibit some one the spot graffiti "art". 

Well, it's not really that NYC canceled the show, since they weren't the promoter, as much as they revoked the permit to allow this event. A permit that has been filed for almost 10 months. So, while this game is one that looks pretty lame to me, and while graffiti is something that looks as art-like as a children's coloring book, this is pretty messed up. This all came about because NYC wanted to try to keep the attention away from something that glamorizes graffiti. 

As geeks, this reflects quite readily on what we like to do. While some graffiti is done as vandalism, there's a lot that is done with permission of the land owner in order to bring "art" to their premises. The same can been seen of our "art". Game players are often depicted as either brain-dead idiots who should do something more "appropriate" with their free time, or as homicidal maniacs who play games like GTA to "hone their killing skills". We know that these two depictions are not often true (the second one is pretty much a load of bull shit, while the first one is occasionally, and sadly, true), but we're stuck with the same pain of being labeled. 

I just had to point this out since it's amazing how in a world of political correctness run-amuck, we still see labels on the less represented of cultures. The geeks are seen as "idiots training to kill police officers", graffiti artists are all labeled as "vandals", teens are labeled as "slackers"...the list can keep going on and on for all of the groups and cultures that don't have active voices in the government. It's pretty sad that because there are advid hunters in the US government that they are seen as normal (despite having access to firearms to use to kill things...not that I have anything for or against hunting), but a kid with a video game is a "stone cold killer in training". Blah... 

Well, I've taken to playing FF3 (the NES FF3) and GTA:SA again. I started some more GTA:SA because my new TV made me want to see how the game looked in wide screen. Here's a hint, for those who don't have a wide screen TV; it looks worse. The wide screen doesn't expand the outer edges of the screen...instead it shrinks the top and bottom margins and then you get left with less total vision than if you played normal. That's why I like how my TV can expand an image to fill the screen. In the mode I use, it cuts off less of the top and bottom than GTA:SA's wide screen mode (so little you don't notice), and then it stretches more on the edges than the center. This gives a wide image, but it makes it look like it's a normal image on a rounded tube TV. 

As for FF3...what can I say. I was expecting to be playing that on my DS sometime soon, but with no real word of it for quite a while (still no announcement for the US and no date for Japan), I had to use my own means to play this classic again. It is definitely a solid game, and it's, in my opinion, more enjoyable than FF2 (NES), which we somehow got. The only part of this game that isn't perfectly enjoyable is how some of the classes (if you don't know, FF3 uses the FF5-style job system) are completely worthless. For example, if you play the standard style of having two mages (one healer, one nuker), you will gain a ton of new jobs before you ever change them to anything else (the better mages don't show up until late in the game). However, this is one of those rare games that it pays to hunt down, if you know what you're getting in to. Since Friday, I've played about 20 hours and have been enjoying each hour far more than I liked any 20 block from any recent Square Enix titles. 

Anyway, there is really nothing to talk about again today. Luckily, the slow days of the summer are almost over. Unfortunately, they will still continue for a few weeks. At least we are now on the home stretch. 


Malik (8/23/05)  

Well, I guess I was wrong. Last week I said that Nintendo is doing some rather lame things with how they will have no games to be released before the holiday season. I guess this list at Gamespot shows how wrong I was...or not... 

There will be a few games that will get some major attention on the DS. I mean Mario Kart has only been bumped a week, so it's still a November release, Mario and Luigi 2 is still set, and Animal Crossing DS is now due in the first week of December. However, beyond that, things actually still look pretty crap-tacular. 

Metroid Prime: Hunters...the demo we all saw as a reason to buy the DS when no games were available for it, and was scheduled for a spring release got delayed to the end of the year. That was, it was delayed for the end of the year until now. Now Hunters will be due out in the world of other words, it's being bumped to sometime in 2006. After teasing us with the free demo since November, isn't it time Nintendo delivered? I guess Nintendo doesn't think so. 

We will soon see a big surge of the standard set of portable games that no one cares about. Just look at the DS and GBA lists and you'll see what I mean. A card game, a casino game, a party game (or two), more Nickelodeon crap (don't they get it yet...they can't make a game on their licenses to save their lives), a Guilty Gear game (sorry, but fighting games on portables are still second rate compared to the console versions), blah, blah. It's all either second rate games or the games that should've been released on a console that could truly harness the genre (like any fighting games). 

As for the non-portable world...well, the Gamecube, without Zelda (and no mention of Animal Crossing 2...if it ever gets released) is looking pretty bland. If you take out Viewtiful Joe (can't go wrong with this damned hard franchise) and Mario Strikers (sports and Mario are the only thing Nintendo seems to do right anymore), you are left with pure crap. There are enough red neck games (American Chopper, hunting, and paintball...oh my...) to make you wonder why the GCN is labeled a "kiddy" system. 

While Sony is offering up a nice dishing of the standard sequels and time tested games (like how Ratchet: Deadlocked will be out in a few months on the PS2 and GTA will be on the PSP in less than 2 months), and while Microsoft is offering the next generation, Nintendo seems to be stuck with a bunch of games that would be better off with a summer release schedule. When Sea World is making a Shamu based game, and when it's part of your holiday line-up, you know you have a problem, Nintendo. 

At least Nintendo will have some fire for the handheld battle. With a new Mario Kart game, the DS is locked in as a contender. Then, when you throw in some other Mario sports titles (like tennis) and Mario and Luigi 2, you have a good defense against your competition. However, the GCN is just dying out there. It has almost no worthwhile games now, it has had no great releases this year (besides RE:4...which was pretty close to being a 2004 release), and nothing good (or noteworthy) in the works until a few months into 2006. This is the same way that the N64 became a joke of a console, and it's the same type of repeated slacking over the generations that led to Sega falling...well, without the surprise launch of a console and massive add-ons accessories. It's about time for Nintendo to wake up and realize that dominance in the handheld market doesn't lead to automatic dominance in the console market. If this keeps up, I think I see the future of the Revolution...and it looks bleak. 


Malik (8/24/05)  

I can smell the 360 just around the smells like...PRICE GOUGING! EB has started to have 360 bundle packages available on their web site, as Gamespot has reported. The bundles are some of the most outrageous ones I've ever seen (and I've seen bundles as far back as the PS2 bundle nightmares that included getting Armageddon on DVD). It's one thing to force a bundle, but it's another thing to force on that contains so many games of different genres. 

It's a safe bet that of the people who plan to get the 360 at launch, a good number are planning on getting Perfect Dark Zero, DoA4, Project Gotham Racing 3, OR Kameo. It's not a safe bet to think that a person who finds Kameo fun would also be interested in PGR3, PDZ, AND DoA4. That's the important thing...all of these games cover different genres and it's rare for a gamer to like all of these genres so much as to shell out $700. I won't even mention how if you're being price gouged, you might as well forget the core unit (since you'll want the HDD, blah, blah). 

At least the final prices do come out a hair cheaper than the prices for all the components put in you'll save about $20 on the bundles, but you'll also be getting some games that will probably just collect dust. Still, when you're paying $700 for a new console, there's something wrong. I was dumb enough to not pre-order a PS2 for it's launch, but even with the bundle package I was forced to get, I still only broke $600 because of tax and shipping. If you live in a place that will get you taxed, you can expect to break $800 (and then some) on one of these mail/Internet order bundles. That's why, no matter how poor you may feel, if you think you'll want a new console on it's launch, pre-order as soon as humanly possible. At least my final purchase will include two games I want (not four that EB picks), the console package I want, and no extra crap to burn a hole in my wallet. 

I guess you could just say it's the season for lame game news. Between Nintendo's announcements over their holiday game launches, the 360 bundles, the 360 prices from Microsoft, and the fact that a not quite firm release date is set for what is going to be a really lame move (Halo)...well, I guess all of the summer news we've been missing has decided to show us why we're better off with no news; all the news out there could be bad or just plain stupid. 

I still have nothing really important that I've been up to. I'm still playing FF3 (in the second part of the three part final dungeon) and wishing Square would bring it to the US on the DS already. I'm also still in that beta I've mentioned...I so wish this game would be released already, since I could go off about it for a good long time. Besides that, I'm just waiting for my next pay check and some new games so I can do something other than play free betas and old classics (not that there's anything wrong with a good old classic game...assuming the game withstands the test of time). 


Malik (8/25/05)  

For those who have actually decided to upgrade their PSPs, the 2.0 upgrade is up and the US now. This is the "big" upgrade that brings in some added ease of use type of things, a new video format (which is still not a common video format or one that anyone can really use...why Sony doesn't start using something common place, like one of the AVI codecs, is well beyond me), and the famous web browser. Of course, if you wanted to web browser so badly, you probably have the Japanese firmware already installed, or you have Wipeout Pure in your UMD drive right now. 

I can tell you, I'm not going through the upgrade for a while. I'm happy with the games I have, and I'm happy with the ability to play homebrew apps. The big-nasty of the firmware upgrade is how homebrew will not be on an upgraded PSP for a good long time. By the time someone cracks homebrew for 2.0, we'll be a few firmware versions down the road. So, while some people are happy to browse the web without Wipeout Pure, I'm happy to use Wipeout (if I even want PSP web browsing) between playing my PSP Doom, emulators, and other fun little games. I mean, is there a real incentive to upgrade? 

Actually, there is. New games, for those who haven't bought any for a while, are usually requiring the latest (or a later than 1.5) firmware version. Sony would like to claim a hundred reasons for this, but the real one is that they don't want homebrew on their PSP. So, by forcing upgrades, they can keep homebrew games on the down low. For example, I'm getting, like many other PSP owners, GTA:LCS in October. When I do, I bet you that it will require the latest firmware, so my homebrew days will be behind me. However, while that's the sad truth, it means I will have a good month and a half before I kiss them goodbye. 

On a different note, I finally finished my latest play through FF3. I think it's funny, if Square holds up it's promise of releasing it for the DS, that this game will probably come by itself. In the end, while I had a good deal of fun, the game is pretty short. The majority of the game is marked by the crystals (like other FF games up until FF5), and after you find the second crystal, you will almost immediately find the third. Then you have a short dungeon or two, and then you have the fourth. By the time you have the fourth (and final) crystal, you are actually in the first part of the final dungeon. While I have no problem with a shorter RPG (just check my Fable review to see what I mean), assuming the game was fun, many gamers have issues with an RPG even clocking 30 hours. Well, FF3 can be pretty damned short, unless you waste time doing the two or three side dungeons (which only add another hour or two). So, unless Square includes something else on the DS version, or unless they add new content (which is doubtful), I see a lot of angry geeks in their future...if they even get off their asses and release the game. 

So, I have no idea what will now occupy my free time. I was thinking of playing some other old-school games...but there's not a one that really is standing out. Considering how my finances are screwed until the end of the month, I may be in a tight spot about now. I have nothing to play (except the beta I'm in...but...), nothing I can afford, and way too much free time. I makes me remember that it is still the summer, after all. 

By the way, if you all thought that EB had two really lame 360 bundles (priced between around $600 and $700), just be glad that they offer you a better choice than Gamestop. While Gamestop is offering 4 different bundles, they all come with at least five games (now isn't that just milking the cash cow a little too much...). 

For one thing, the game selection boggles the mind more than EB's. Just ask yourself, "who would be likely to enjoy PGR, DoA3, Call of Duty 2, and Oblivion?". In fact, by including a hardcore RPG, these bundles are almost guaranteed to turn off quite a few potential customers who'd rather hit up EB than be stuck with one more game they wouldn't want. At least it's better than those who order the $1200 (OMG...$1200! Don't they even realize what that amount of money is!?!? That's a freakin' nice quality HDTV, awesome home theater system, or even up to two or so months of rent!) "Ultimate Bundle". If you actually thing you'd enjoy everything from Oblivion to DoA to Madden to PGR to Tony Hawk...well, you probably don't even realize what the hell you're thinking. 

The best part of that bundle, unless you have some sort of entertainment business that includes video game setups, is that most of those games will probably remain untouched for a good amount of time. By then, you could've saved at least some good money by buying used copies...or even saved more money by reading some reviews (let's face it, launch titles are usually hit or miss...and a good number will be "miss") and seeing that you just don't really want some of the games. 

While you could say, "but at the price they're selling the bundles, you save a few dollars over buying everything separately!"...that is true. However, that's only if you want every game in the bundle and nothing else in the launch window. Otherwise, you will save even more money by not getting one of these bundles. 

I feel a compulsion to warn as many gamers as possible. I've bought bundles in the past. I got a bundle with my PS2, my GCN, and my PSP. I can tell you, no matter how good the bundled games look, some of them will suck. It's inevitable. However, if you wait until a few days after the system is launched, you can usually find enough user and professional reviews to know which ones to avoid. Even better, if you want to play it smart, try to find a store, right now (if you want a launch 360), that is still taking pre-orders and lay down your $50-$100 for the pre-order. It's the only smart way to go. When you have a bundle for a few days, and realize how much money you dropped on it compared to what you'd spend if you had picked and chose your products individually, and when you see how bad some of the games are (or at least how much you'd have never bought them if you had a choice), you will kick yourself...and then you'll do it again. Bundles only lead to disappointment in the end...disappointment that tarnishes the fun that you should feel during the first couple of weeks of owning a console that most of your friends don't have yet. 

Now you know... 



Ok, I was wrong about the stupidity of the 360 bundles.  I thought that ultimate bundle was the worst concept for milking a cash cow that I've ever seen.  That was until I saw Gamespot's "Omega Bundle".  It's beyond stupid.  The description says it "will truly statisfy (sic) your video game obsession" (their bad spelling, not mine).  Well, let me tell you, as an obsessed person, there is a fine line between a healthy obsession and stupidity, and this bundle (actually, any bundle) crosses the line.  If this thing actually can sell, then I will only say one thing; I want out.

Malik (8/26/05)  

To tell the truth, I really have nothing new to talk about today. After beating FF3 for the second or so time on Wednesday, I spent last night trying to think of something to play. I started off staring at my collection...and then I carefully evaluated each game...then I stared at the whole thing...then I stared at re-runs of The Simpsons and Chapelle's Show...then I stared at the game collection. In the end, I came to two realizations. The first is that I don't have anything I'd be willing to play again. The second is that, even after I have money and get paid next week, there's nothing in stores that I want. 

Maybe, if I'm feeling a bit crazy, I'd consider Geist if I can get some good trade-in value for some games (like how, for some weird reason, I still have Ys for the PS2 despite how crap-tacular it is). That's still pretty doubtful, however. I just feel like there's nothing worth my time out there. Plus, when I think of spending more money on games, I can't help but feel enraged because it reminds me of bundle packages...and that's always been a source of rage for me. They're the only reason I ended up with most of my worst games (and my worst DVD), and the only reason I've ever felt anger after buying a new system (which is not a feeling one should have when they are a technophile holding the latest technology). 

So, despite my boredom, I did find something to mildly entertain me. I loaded Morrowind (PC version) and started a new game. I doubt I'll play it all that much. At least it can serve as a momentary reprieve from my boredom. I'll give it some time, but I am thinking I'll be, once again, staring at the game collection soon enough. It's just hard for me to get back into this game when I know of all the new features in Oblivion and how they eliminate some of my greatest complaints about the earlier Elder Scrolls games. To get into this game makes as much sense as for me to play through Fable again when I know that The Lost Chapters would give me a better time. 

I guess if there was some real news (like Microsoft is getting close to launch time for the release date is in order), or if there was something to play, I could have something worthwhile to post. Oh well. The beginning of the summer was actually pretty fun for game news because of Hot Coffee, so I guess the ending would (by virtue of karma) be extra rough. Blah. 

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