Malik  (12/10/04)

This week had me caught up with many things...personal, social, work related (which is always the worst).  So I had to keep things to a minimum to help me maintain my sanity.

I've been playing a lot of Metroid Prime 2, so that's where I started for today.  MP2 is a good game and a good part of gaming evolution, but it has many flaws.  Even more than the original had.  So, I just felt like voicing my complaint that is affecting my will to game the most.

Beyond that, there's some economical geek news that could effect the sports geeks out there.  While it's not my thing, it does have some rather strong evidence of what a bad decision can do to our gaming budget.

Anyway, enough intro.  Let's get this shiz-nit rolling.  I'm Malik, and I'm your Bitchy waiter for the evening.

Up For A Challenge? 

Monday night I was about one more death away from selling Metroid Prime 2 back to EB...just one more death. For those who have played MP2, yup...I was at the Boost Ball Guardian. This has to be the lamest idea to have ever come out of Retro Studios. In fact, while some may call it a spoiler, let me detail's for your own good. After all, if you want to play or buy this game, you should know about the worst moment in the game (and from the strategies I read last night, this is the worst moment of the game). 

So, this battle takes place in Dark Aether. That means that you'll be hurt each second you are in the atmosphere, assuming you don't stand in a light beacon/light crystal protected area (which make a small sphere of light that not only negates the poison-like effect of the dark air, but even slowly restores your lost health. Thankfully, all bosses in the Dark Aether areas have included a handful of light crystals to stand near (or light beacons to charge up to provide temporary sanctuary). Not the case in this boss fight. As you fight, you are constantly losing health, even when you are not being pummeled...even when the fight is over, you are still losing health ((so, if you survive with only a couple health units left, you will most likely die after the fight). 

Now this boss starts off in an alien looking form (like most of the bad guys, also called the Ing...). In this form you can pummel the boss with charged light attacks, super missiles, or whatever else you can throw at it. However, it will do the same to you...not light and missiles, but the pummeling part. This includes hitting you with a dark based attack that knocks out use of your radar and the rest of your HUD for about 10 seconds (which can easily allow the boss to sneak up behind you and then take care of business). After enough time and damage, the boss will turn into a ball (like your morph ball). In fact, this boss is called the Boost Ball Guardian because he has your boost ball ability (which lets you charge up and launch your ball form along the ground, dealing damage to everything in your path and moving faster than anything else), and once he enters ball form, he will use it. So, you have to turn into your ball to see the arena (the third person of your ball form is the only way to properly see in this battle). While in this form, the boss will also summon lesser Ings to shoot at you and touch you for damage. So, if this wasn't bad enough, I should mention that you cannot harm the boss at this time, so it will dish out damage, and you will take it. 

After a while, the ball form will change into a puddle of poop (well, it's a gray/red puddle shape that follows you). This puddle will chase you and remove your health faster than you'd ever think possible. At this point, you can lay bombs and harm this thing...however, you will not drop it's health any. WTF? Right? Basically, if you hit it enough times, it will either revert to the ball form (in which case you're screwed) or back to it's original form. At this point, you will have about 5 seconds to fire as much shit as possible and pray that you don't miss any (if it moves, it will dodge your assault). Also, if you're using missiles (or super missiles) or your light shots at this point, each miss means loss of ammo for a future assault. Yup...this fight just keeps getting worse and worse. If you're lucky, you may finally kill this thing after 3 or 4 rounds of the ball (spoiler: Use super missiles...a lot of strategies say the light beam charged up will do best...that's bull shit and it will only deal about 75% of the damage that a super missile will do). 

So, I failed at killing this thing 5 times. FIVE FREAKIN' TIMES! I only beat it the final attempt because the game gods were kind enough to throw energy pick-ups my way in a great abundance.  There was nothing in MP nearly this frustrating (especially when you realize that you can't skip the boss monster intro cinematic). I don't know if Retro's concept of boosting the difficulty was such a smart move. I've seen more posts on message boards, while looking for a good strategy for this boss (there are none...they all come down to not dying and hoping that the smaller Ings will leave big health pick-ups if you manage to kill them), on how people are selling this game or just quitting because of this one boss. Difficulty is one thing, but there is a line between something that's difficult and something that relies purely on luck. This battle required more luck than skill and strategy. 


Game developers have gotten their perspectives twisted in recent years with a lot of concepts. First there was the birth of 3D platformers (started with Mario 64) that made all developers think 3D was the only way to go. I mean just looking at any 2D series that made a 3D leap, you can see the problems...I mean, the best example would be Castlevania...the game which is constantly fun on the PS and the GBA with the wonderful 2D versions, while the N64 and PS2 have only shown us the dark side of 3D. This even made Metroid go from a game in which you duke it out with a monster to a game in which you either solve the puzzle that is the boss or you (in the boost ball case) just rely on nothing more than luck. 

Then there's the idea of challenge. Some game makers decided that challenge should be boosted in games by raising the number of enemies you must face. Others have decided to make their action games into puzzle based games (you don't shoot the foe until it shoot off it's left arm, then it's right arm, and then you shoot the red target that appears in it's chest...then you repeat as the arms re-grow for about 10 total chest shots). 

No matter what, however, this all comes down to one classic issue. When a new game is made from a classical franchise, the developers need to keep things true to the original. If you want Metroid to become first person, that's do-able. I mean it's one change. Now if you want it to only have 4 weapons that cannot be used at the same time, that's another change. Now if you want the bosses to be puzzles, that's another thing. When you keep stacking these changes, all you do is corrupt a good franchise that has had loyal fans and a solid game play style. In fact, the fans don't matter nearly as much as the solid game play that made the first few Metroid games so likable. If something is not broken (and a series cannot be successful if it's broken), then leave it the hell alone. There are plenty of ways to make a sequel to a successful franchise without ruining the basics. A sequel is an expansion from the original and therefore doesn't need to be completely re-invented from the ground up. Hell, Retro didn't even touch anything between MP and MP2 except for the, why couldn't they leave everything anole and make a truly classical Metroid (even in first person, if they chose)? There's no excuse for treating a classic series with this abuse and contempt. 

Cheap Games No More? 

According to an article at, at the recent UBS Media Conference Take-Two executives have announced that an end to low priced ESPN sports games may be soon. The primary reason behind this announcement seems two fold...the first and most obvious of these is greedy. If a company can make more money, then naturally they will strive to do so. Game publishing and development is a business, after all. Secondly, the reason is because Paul Eibeler (president of Take-Two) said that research has shown that the price of a game is not in the top two or three reasons a gamer buys a game. 

First, a little back ground. For those who haven't noticed, this year the ESPN brand sports games have all come out at a price of $20 for the consoles. This is a major step back from the previous year's releases that came with a standard $50 price tag. Part of this price shift was a definite bid to out-compete EA and their sports titles (which would you buy, a cheap game or an expensive one if they are both pretty close in quality? You don't need to answer that one). Also, another part of this move was to add some further motivation for people to buy the latest sports games. Year after year, we see only the slightest of changes to the major sports titles from the previous version, yet the game still would carry a $50 price tag. Plus, the trade-in value (at most major retailers) for sports titles has hit the floor (you'd be lucky to get $2 for a trade-in of one of last year's sports games). So, this major price drop has been a nice bid to reinvigorate the gaming crowds desire for new sports games. 

So, with the next generation of consoles coming along soon, Take-Two executives have started to say that the likelihood of premium pricing ($50 per game) for sports games is likely to return. While the timeline for the price increase is not yet set, it could be said that it will definitely go back to the normal prices by the time the first sports games hit the next generation of consoles. However, this increase is expected to come even sooner in anticipation of the next generation...which makes as much sense as raising the price of the PS2 to $300 in anticipation of the PS3 selling for that price when it finally arrives. 

Deep down, this type of price shift was originally a great idea. I mean the lowering of prices for a series of games that remains relatively unchanged from year to year. The actual development time and cost of these games are far less than for a game that is original and unique. However, to charge full price for these games is only an insult to the geeks. Plus, when the trade-in value of these games are little more than pocket change, it only adds further insult to know that that $50 2004 football game means shit compared to the 2005 version, and will get no more play out of it. If the trade-in value is little (if you can even consider it anything more than an insult), the initial price is great, and the lifespan is a mere 1 year, it's the consumer who's getting ripped off and should be ready to make pricing their number one motivating factor for buying (or not buying) a new sports game. Price is not the ultimate factor for all games, but it should for sports games.


Deep down, the solution is quite simple. If the ESPN line of games never dropped in price (which was mildly stupid from a business aspect but really good from a moral standpoint) then there would be nothing to talk about. However, the price drop did happen. So, the solution is to either stick with this too the end (at least the end of this generation) or to be ready for some fallout. 

I mean the sports games that never had this price shift will continue to keep their loyal business. However, the games that suddenly jump $30 (or 150%) in a single year will hurt. They will feel a good deal of pain being known as the games that obviously cost little to make (or they would never have been sold for so cheap at launch) but cost extra to buy. 

This type of practice will only serve to disenfranchise the consumers. In the end, ESPN will still sell quite well (since, in my perspective and the perspectives of countless consumers, they are the better sports games...but, to each his/her own), but there will be an obvious fallout. This can be expected to not be as strong of a case when the next generation hits, but until this generation games should not jump from low to high prices. So, the solution, ultimately, is to keep the value prices until the next generation (at least). 


So, things were kept a little shorter this week.  I've been doing it a little too often lately, but I at least have my reasons.  I mean there's been a lack of things to bitch about for several months, and then I just had too much to do this week.  I'll try to work on this problem, as I work towards whatever I need to better in my life, but I can't make any promises...well, not until the next year (call it intuition, but I smell some big news coming our way quite soon).  So, with nothing else to say, I will fade out for another week (fade out from Bitchings, that is).  If you want to, for some reason, you can write me or put your thoughts to the forums.  Peace.