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Malik (9/12/05)  

I kept thinking there were no good games to play...I repeated that as some sort of mantra. I would say it day after day as I stumbled into playing one game after another that had been beaten more times than a game should be tackled by anyone of less than "fanboy" status. All this time, I didn't know what it took my friend Meat Shield to show me on Saturday. 

We were looking for a good rental (something co-op, and something that's fun for a night or two, but not worth a purchase), along with our friend Bastich, when he saw Gladius was not in stock. So, on MS's insistence, we hit Gamestop before they closed. He got the game, and I assumed a mildly entertaining night would be before us...I had no idea... 

I can't believe Gladius is another awesome game that received no love from the masses. It's like how Beyond Good and Evil was boned by being so unknown, despite being one of the best Zelda-esque games of the current generation. Well, Gladius does a similar job for strategy RPGs. 

The basic premise of Gladius is that you are trying to help your gladiator school get fame by rising through the ranks of a Rome-like empire's arenas. However, while the game engine and concept are pretty solid on their own, it's the co-op that blew me away. As you prepare to start a round in the arenas, you are allowed to let other players press start to join in. From this point, those players and the main player will divide who controls which battlers. It's like taking a standard strategy game and letting someone else do some back-seat gaming...with the exception that they have total control of their character(s). 

This also allows people to feel more invested with their characters, so each character can essentially be the star of the game to someone. So, when it's level up time, and then you chose which skills a character will receive, the one who played with that person the most will feel more invested into making a unique and useful character. Plus, you have options to change appearances and to hire random freelance gladiators. Put those together, and the cast of "important" people will go well beyond the protagonists. 

For example, MS played the main hero, Bastich was the hero's close friend, which left me with just some random female rogue-like character. This would be pretty lame in most games, but to me she felt like a key player in the game since I was actively playing her role in each round of the arena. 

It may sound like something that's not too important, but it makes for a great experience when it's put in action. Too sound extra's really a great experience for a bunch of D&D playing geeks, like us. 

Anyway, tomorrow is when some new games finally hit the streets. We Love Katamari is a definite buy for anyone who likes a lighthearted game, or likes to be blown away by the culture shock of East meeting West. There's also a shit ton of Burnout for fans of racing, destruction, or fast paced action. On the consoles, Burnout Revenge will be a great high action game, and Burnout Legends on the PSP may finally be the first game that is a must buy for the PSP (since Death Jr. dropped that ball with his dear friend, Bad Camera). 

Also, to randomly jump to another subject; Naruto aired on Cartoon Network a couple nights back. Wow...I don't know what to say. I am a giant fan of Naruto. If an episode aired, at random, I would watch it. It doesn't matter which episode (well, with about 3 exceptions...the ninja race...) it was, I'd watch. I love the show. That's why I feel so conflicted by wanting to punch Naruto in the nuts every time I hear his voice. Why can't American anime studios realize that a voice should be more than stereotypical. Naruto is a moderately young, you don't have to follow conventions and make him speak like a little girl. 

I guess I could say it's cool that they didn't get the usual batch of bad voice actors...they got some of the most inexperienced voice actors (check out IMDb and see where the English cast has worked before) possible. Meanwhile, a good studio might have tried some tested voice actors (like getting some of the Cowboy Bebop talent...I can't think of any other anime with a good English dub, so I'll drop off that subject there...). In fact, Cowboy Bebop should serve as a perfect example to localization studios on what to do correctly. Cowboy Bebop had good voice talent (the best in dubbed anime), the real Japanese intro (which was not only a great intro, it was not a lame attempt to replace something cool with a bad attempt at metal, like Naruto is plagued with, or rap, like One Piece must face), and a less dumbed down story than more localizers give anime. I'm still waiting for some of the darker episodes of Naruto, so I can see how the plot gets toned, and watered, down like a typical episode of One Piece. 

Seriously...this is one of the top anime in Japan, the Naruto movie that just came out bumped Star Wars Episode 3 from the top spot in Japan when it was released, it has spawned some of the better anime based games on the GCN, and has one hell of a following around the English speaking world (check out or an see for yourself). This is a perfect anime to treat with love and respect...not to give castrated and pathetic voices, change a good J-pop style intro into bad DBZ style metal (which is about as metal as Metallica in group therapy), and to use unheard of voice talent. There are few good voice actors in the US, and to not go with one of the few who's proved his or her worth is about the worst mistake anime can be subjected to. I'm just glad that Rock Lee's voice is not listed as casted on IMDb (he doesn't show until the next season anyway)...I don't think I could take that right now. 

My advice, for those who never saw the original Japanese episodes...use the closed captions on your TV and hit the mute button. You'll miss some good sounds and music (since only the intro and closing have been mutilated)...but it'll be better than hearing voices this bad. 


Malik (9/13/05)  

The official GTA: Liberty City Stories web site is up and running. This also means that the official release date for GTA:LCS is now here. It's the 25th of October. Luckily, with Rockstar, once they tell us a release date, they are pretty good at keeping it solid. So, I think it's safe to say, with the current amount of time left before the game's launch, we can say that the last week of October is a solid date. 

The web site is another cryptic, yet entertaining, GTA web site. The interesting part is the trailer for the game. The trailer pretty much shows the game going less with a theme than the previous GTA games (well, since GTA3). I mean Vice City had the whole Miami Vice meets Scarface theme going for it, GTA:SA had the Boyz in the Hood theme. Meanwhile, it looks like no solid movie based theme is present in the trailer for this one. At least the visuals are pretty, and it looks like we can probably expect, in most ways, a game that's on par with the last three GTA games. 

The one question I have, that the web site seems to be skipping, is the issue of controls. I still have this fear of how they will handle the loss of two shoulder buttons and an analogue stick when the final game is released. With the previous 3 games, I've always got them for the PS2 for two reasons...the first, and most obvious, is that the PS2 is the console that gets the games first. The other reason is that the PS2 controller is perfect for GTA. The PC could never offer such a smooth interface (without using a PS2-style PC controller), and the XBox failed when it came to the shoulder buttons. I just hope Rockstar has some ace up their sleeves in making the controls right for the toned down PSP. 

Anyway, by the time I post this, I should have Burnout Revenge in my hands. It'll be nice to finally have a new game to play after all of these months of over- and under-hyped crap. I still think that if a game publisher wanted to make some nice money, they would release a big named game during the summer. Considering that there would be no competition, and that the summer is always regarded as a dead zone in games (usually with much contempt), it seems only fitting that someone should jump on this wide open plane of no-competition. What better way, besides actually releasing a game for the holidays (might I add, when the summer drought ends, which is today this year; the first bunch of games are released a little too early to be real holiday releases anyway)? The demand is there, the supply is not...basic marketing says that you solve the supply issue and you make some money...just don't solve it by throwing bad cameras (Death Jr.), generic titles (Smart Bomb), or other lame attempts at half-assing it. 

Blah. People in suits simply will not figure out this type of lesson on their own. After all, in theory the summer is a bad time to release games since all the gamers are on summer vacation with their families...which is a nice thought, if the average game player was not over 18 (which is the reality of the situation). The average gamer is either a working stiff, a college student (many of which work in the summer to afford the next year of tuition), or an unemployed bum who is far more likely to scrap together $50 for a game than to find the money for a summer getaway. The times have changed, yet the attitudes remain the same. 

Well, I'm just sorta rambling all over the place today. 


Malik (9/14/05)  

I don't know, personally, how well Burnout Legends is for the PSP, but reviews make it sound like a good solid PSP title. In fact, most reviews I've seen make the game sound far better than just "solid" sounds like I thought it would; as the first really great game of the PSP era (let's face it; previous PSP games have been "good" at best...usually not even that). 

I brought that up because there's going to be a DS port in November. This one, despite how Burnout has always been a name that meant quality, sounds a little less likely to be a great game. It's not that I think Criterion will make a bad game on their own accord. It's more of how DS games tend to have lower technical specs (just look at a game like Ridge Racer on both handhelds and tell me you don't honestly see a major difference). Burnout is a game that requires power and performance from it's chosen consoles. The game is about mixing both highly detailed crashes with some of the smoothest high speed driving possible. That's not even mentioning the high level of controls that are needed for driving in on-coming traffic at 200 MPH. These features just don't translate too cleanly onto the DS hardware. 

I'm expecting that Burnout Legends for the DS will be more along the lines of how disappointing NFSU was for the PSP. It will control and feel like the average 3D racer from the GBA, but with slightly better visuals. On top of that, you know Nintendo will pressure EA to make sure that some sort of weakly planned touch screen application is used. In fact, that is the one failing of the DS. It's not the touch screen, which has some good uses, but rather Nintendo's insistence that everything uses it. There are some games that would do quite nicely on the DS, but only if they were allowed to go without touching. Plus, there are some games that just don't work on the DS format, but could use one screen perfectly. Just look at all the games that try to force some lame happy images on one screen while all of the game play and action are taken care of with the other screen. 

Anyway, if I had to get one portable version of Burnout...well, I would go PSP in an instant. It's here now, it's on a more advanced system, and it won't mess things up by trying to force in use of the touch screen (true, Criterion may not use it...but considering EA's record of going along with touch, I think it's safe to expect). This isn't the same choice of 360 vs. XBox for Burnout Revenge...that's a tougher question since the 360 version will, probably, look far nicer on an HD display, and it will probably be smoother in operation...but it will also be 4-5 months late. 

Anyway, I'm hoping to get Burnout Revenge today and get in some time with it between now and my next post. It will be nice to get the summer drought behind me. Also, it'll be nice to not just feel like I'm milking Morrowind for all it's worth, and then some. 

Anyway, to wrap up my may only be another two days before Nintendo fanboys of the world are given a chance to rejoice. That's when the keynote address for the TGS is given by Mr. Iwata (the big N's president). It's being expected that the controller for the Revolution will come up, and that some actual details may be included. It's hard to say how much one (assuming you're a Nintendo fanboy) should get hyped...but Nintendo did announce at E3 that details of the controller would be revealed later this year...and it is later this year. I'll post and share the stuff if it's solid...but I'm still a little skeptical that Nintendo would reveal anything major, since Sony and Microsoft will probably try to steal their design (to paraphrase Nintendo at E3), or some other lame excuse will come up... 

Also, before I forget...I guess it was only a matter of time before Sony imitated Microsoft with something. First Microsoft had the faulty power cords, and now it's Sony. Anyway, if you're paranoid about dying from a PS2 power cord related death, you can go here to see if you're power supply will kill you and rob you blind in your sleep...don't even ask what it will do to your pets (you're better off not having that picture in your head...poor little kitties...). 


Malik (9/15/05)  

They say that first impressions are crucial in almost everything we do. It can be meeting someone for the first time, trying to get a job interview, trying to explain to the cops how it wasn't you and it was really your evil (or non-evil) twin...the first thing the other party notices will always be the most crucial thing in keeping the situation good. 

Well, Burnout Revenge has a problem with this. From the first second I opened the game's box and saw the leaflet that is a poor excuse for a full instruction manual (it's in the neighborhood of a dozen pages, counting all the legal bullshit), I felt uneasy. That was until I started the game...I no longer "felt" uneasy; I was at a state of unease. The game is not bad by any means...unless you've played Burnout 3. 

First off, the number of cars and seeing which you've unlocked are really limited. While many of the cars in Burnout 3 did nothing more than change your appearance, you could still feel proud about unlocking them. In Burnout Revenge, I am 10% done (according to the stat screen), and I have no real choice in a race. I'm either the first car or the second car. Yippee...? 

Beyond that, the biggest problem comes in the form of the actual game. The controls are still tight, the action is sweet, the races are adrenaline inspiring, and the visuals are some of the best we can ever hope to see on the current generation (might I add, I naturally got the XBox version). However, the game play has gone down the crapper. 

This is most seen by the new feature that was supposed to change the game for the better; checking traffic. You can now hit any vehicle on the road, except for a big-rig or bus, but you have to hit them from behind. Instead of just pushing the car you hit a little like you would to an opponent in B3, you make them fly. For a game series that once gave such realistic action for an arcade inspired racer, you now are left punting minivans up to 30 feet in the air just by hitting them from behind. WTF? Plus, since you only lose a little of your momentum by doing this, and you gain boost, you can forget about having to drive in oncoming traffic to gain boost. In fact, all you have to do is just keep punting soccer moms. 

The worst part of this is when you're in crash mode. Now, since you can punt same-direction vehicles, you don't really worry about finding the best way to start an only have to cause as much devastation to little cars as possible until you find the right big-rig to start a serious accident with. It's like taking a strategy game (crash in B2-3 was all strategy) like chess and turning it into Smash Brothers. You can use some strategy, but if you try to hard, you'll just see the grand plan you came up with fall apart. 

However, the single worst part of all of these changes is trying to take down an opponent in a race or road rage event. Instead of fighting a little, you now have to treat each opponent as a "boss". They will not only fight back (which would be good...), but you will always be less powerful than them. If you have a similar car as your opponent and you slam them from the side, they will be bumped a certain amount. Now when you hit you back, you will move about 3 times as far. 

In the end, it looks a lot like Criterion took what was once a great game and tried too hard to redefine it (except for your mission select system...which has gone to's Burnout 2, with a lame twist). When a developer has a good game, the ultimate solution to making a sequel is to just give more of what people enjoyed; not to try to redefine it into something so innovative that it's almost unrecognizable. Blah. 

I'll play more, naturally (it is a good game after all...just not Burnout 3 good), and maybe my mind will change about this game. However, I'm doubting that. By the way, I figured I will wait until tomorrow to bitch about the rank system (in case anyone has played and wonders why I left that bullshit alone)'s a preview; you can get first place in a race and not get a great score on said event. 


Malik (9/16/05)  

I could talk about something like Microsoft finally announcing a release date for the 360 (November 22nd), but as of last night (less than a day after the release date was announced), the geek world doesn't care. 

Yeah...all I can say is and huh? 

I actually thought this was some sick April Fools joke (just not in April).  I honestly had to see this on three separate news sites before I believed that it was true.

I don't know if Nintendo and Miyamoto are seeing the world on a level that no one had ever thought possible or if they have just finally gone completely f$#@ing out-of-their-f$#@ing-minds in-f#@%ing-sane. Actually, I think it's the second. I think Nintendo has finally decided to stop the trend of the last few years. Why continue to make many small mistakes when you can throw all your chips into the pot in one giant mistake to end all mistakes. 

Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic (most people accuse me of that), but as I prefer to see it, I'm being a realist. This is not a game controller. Nope. This is a freaking DVD remote that has been stripped down. It's like what a remote would look like for a DVD player if it had the iMac logo on it. It even has the freakin' power button in the same location as many DVD player remotes. It has a home button even, which makes me think of a "title" button on my DVD remote. 

Ok, before I go completely off the deep end with the obvious (how badly this will hurt saying how if a new Smash Brothers comes out for the Revolution, this controller will not do a good all), let's look at what Nintendo is trying to do. 

Nintendo is trying to bring in the casual gamer (maybe because they know that with their current marketing decisions, no serious geek will touch a Nintendo system without first having the latest from both Sony and Microsoft...sorry, I said I'd stop that...). I guess one way to do this is to use a non-aggressive appearance. This explains the iPod friendly white theme. It also explains the complete lack of buttons. Most of all, it explains why the controller is designed for one handed use (I won't say the obvious joke about another one handed entertainment that could be enjoyed at the same time...). It's so non-threatening, yet so sterile. It's like having a home-cooked meal of meat-loaf and mashed potatoes, but served by a giant faceless corporation. Normally it would make you feel all warm and fuzzy because of how gentle the thing appears, but it leaves you not quite feeling that way because of how it's so plain and unimpressive. 

So, the ultimate feature of this controller is the motion sensor technology.  I guess it gives the Revolution an analogue like feature. However, that makes up for one of the missing analogue sticks. There's still the matter of the second one. Why would I mention it in such a way to make it sound like two analogue sticks are needed? Simply put, we were told of how the Revolution can download all past Nintendo games and emulate them. Well, how the f$#@ do you play a game that used all the buttons of the GCN on this controller? I don't honestly think you can with any level of comfort. 

Also, there's another problem with making a controller like this. While Nintendo has obviously abandoned the hardcore gamer (always a bad move...Burger King does so well with new sandwiches because at number 2 they remember that while hardcore fast-food freaks are only about 10-20% of their customers, but they spend 80% of the money that comes in to Burger King, so they make big and unhealthy burgers to keep the hard core crowd apply that to gaming), another problem I can see is that Nintendo may not win over the casual gamer if motion is required. I'm not saying casual gamers are lazy...I'm saying that a casual gamer will probably not want something that requires so ridiculous of movement to enjoy. It's the geeks that don't mind looking like fools (I should know...I don't care if I look like a fool if I'm enjoying a great game). 

While this style of input will have some cool uses, like how you can play fishing games with style (if you even consider "fishing games" to be games), it will not make up for the lack of functionality needed for something like a new Mario title. Also, with how the buttons are laid out, I tried to imagine using this thing (it's I said, a geek doesn't care about looking like a fool...take a DVD remote and hold it and pretend it's a Revolution controller...) and I don't see how you can use it one handed and hit the "a" and "b" (as opposed to "A" and "B") buttons while only using one hand. However, if you want to use it two handed, then I don't see you getting the best range of motion for the motion sensor. There's even the simple fact that there's not enough buttons to use it to emulate SNES games. More than that, you can't use the d-pad, the A button, and the B button all at the same time with one, how would you even play the original Super Mario Bros. on this thing? 

The ironic part of all of this is how Nintendo said they didn't want to show it off too early since they feared Microsoft and Sony would steal their idea. As for the motion sensor...Microsoft actually used that before in a Sidewinder pad (PC) and they don't use it anymore for obvious reasons (it served no good purpose), and even old school systems (like the Genesis) had access to those lame motion sensor cages in the past. This technology died for a reason; it's a gimmick. So, I wonder, who the f#%@ would actually try to steal this technology? I honestly don't think anyone would. It's limited in function, it'll probably only appeal to people for so long before a standard controller is desired, and making it one handed makes it hard to use more than the B button with the d-pad. 

So, to wrap this up, I think I'll place my bet now. In the next generation, Microsoft will gain substantial ground, Sony will lose a minor (almost insignificant) part of the market, and Nintendo is going the old suicide route. Unless Nintendo can pull a major ace from their sleeves, it may soon come to an end for them...and while I always supported them, I have to say it's a good thing. If they can come out with such poorly conceived ideas (just think of the backwards compatibility with this controller and any SNES game if you don't think there are problems here), maybe it's time for them to pull a Sega. At least Sega had some solid consoles, with a lack of planning. Nintendo is just running around like maniacs...however, Nintendo as a maker of games for other systems...hmmmm...imagine Zelda on the 360...or Smash Brothers...yeah...that's nice... 

Well, I guess this is a good lesson of history repeating itself. Nintendo is so enamored by trendy technology, they can no longer see the forest for the trees (or the gamer audience for the geeks). For those who were too young to remember, pay attention to the times, for I dub this the second coming of Virtual Boy! May Microsoft and Sony have mercy on our gaming souls. 

Before I go, I should mention on thing to my sinister friends. Straight from IGN's coverage of this abomination, comes this blurb; "Has an expansion port which can be used with different types of controller peripherals. Analog stick with two trigger buttons planned for left hand." I just hope that doesn't mean what it may mean...that us left handed people may get the shaft. While I can see that the controller is suited for either hand equally, peripherals may be another matter. I just hope I'm not expected to either play with the wrong hands, or I'm expected to buy one analogue add-on for me, and a separate one for Velveeta just because she's not as sinister as me. 

Also, I can tell you now that the analogue add-on that IGN shows doesn't look comfortable from both a useful perspective or from a comfort level perspective of any other console's controller.  Most of all, when the number one thing that can kill a system (look at the past) is requiring additional hardware to fully utilize the system, I sure hope Nintendo doesn't forget to package the analogue with the controller (otherwise, you'd be looking at needing 8 controllers for some 4-player games...4 controllers, and 4 analogue packs). Wow...the lack of logic hurts my head.  However, I think I'm most annoyed by how the analogue add-on is obviously curved for a left hand...which leaves 1/7 of the gaming population (including yours truly) with being forced to hold the motion sensitive part of the control in my less agile of hands...that's thinking ahead, Nintendo...f#$@ers. 

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