Before I start
what I want to get in to, I feel like addressing one thing;
Rock Band is now
announced with a
formal data and a formal price. The price is about $30 less than
originally anticipated with a new cost of $170. The 360 version will
include wired instruments, which is a little weak, but that's how
Microsoft handles their wireless controller technology. However,
it's now safe to say that the game will come, out of the box, ready
for three players with drums, mic, and a single guitar. Since the GH
controller is supposed to be pretty compatible, despite having half
the buttons for frets, this should not be much of a problem...unless
you want to rock out the solos with two players. Plus, that 360
version includes a USB hub, which makes up somewhat for the
Microsoft idea of hording wireless.
However, while the
price seems good, the date sounds nothing short of insane. Instead
of Rock Band coming along on the first Tuesday of November (long
rumored to be the release date), it's now coming out on the 23rd. A
Friday. Not bad until you think about which Friday. Yes...Black
Friday...the most horrible day to leave your home and make any
purchases. This will probably be one of the few times that
pre-ordering at Gamestop (usually pretty sane on Black Friday, for
locations not within actual malls) or ordering online will be the
best option. To try to pick up this game at a place like Best Buy or
Fry's would be nothing short of pure insanity.
take the original guess of $200 if it meant getting the game on a
day before Thanksgiving. Personally, I'd rather avoid all shopping
(besides for groceries) once Thanksgiving has rolled along and until
New Years is behind us.
Anyway, what I
really wanted to talk about was what happened at 1PM (PST)
yesterday. I'm talking about the Seahawks finally showing that they
can be contenders for the NFC West. Not only that, but that both the
offense and defense can be active in the same quarter.
True, it probably
helped that San Francisco lost their QB early on (with one hell of a
sweet attack by Rocky Bernard...I recorded the play on my DVR and
stopped the recording just after that just so I can watch it a few
dozen times). However, that's how the game is played. If you don't
make sure that your line can stop a 300+ pound defensive sacking
machine from cutting lose on your QB, then you better be prepared
for the giant to climb on top of your QB like he's a mountain
climber eyeing Mt. Everest. You also should expect the obvious of
what happens when the mountain and the climber trade rolls...the
mountain will crush the poor little climber like a freakin' beer
taking care of business early on, the game only got better from
there. Hasselbeck was making every pass for quite a while (I stopped
counting when he was 7 for 7), Julian Peterson was dominating the
offense, and the Seahawks made sure that the only yards to appear
and first downs to be obtained were for themselves.
If the Seahawks
can play like this on every game for the rest of the season, and
actually show they are there to win it all, then things might get
really interesting really fast. It also helps with bringing some
momentum when the Seahawks take down their main current rival (the
Rams no longer count since they have forgotten how to play this
season). If they can do the same in their first rematch with the
Steelers since Superbowl XL, then the momentum will be one hell of a
hard thing to stop.
I'm also glad to
see that the Seahawks are finally recognizing that they do have a
real QB in the third position. This has allowed for Seneca Wallace
to finally see the field some more in some interesting trick plays.
True, some don't come to produce anything, but most of them
(especially when Wallace is not passing the ball, but is instead
taking the ball himself) are almost guaranteed to produce a first
down and some major yards.
The few times
Wallace sees on the field action make me remember why I can't help
but feel a bit sorry for him. He is probably one of the most
talented players on the squad, but he's also one of the most
important to keep safe. So, while he could be gaining some awesome
stats if he was a standard receiver or rusher, he is instead stuck
being a rare utility player that will be neglected by the history
books. I wouldn't want to see him put out into harm's way each day,
since it's a thin line between injured QB and injured backup and
being healthy in case an emergency shows up...but it would be damned
nice if the Seahawks could have two Wallaces; one in reserve and one
running the field.
One last bit of
game stuff before I call it a day with this post; the
Blue Dragon downloads for Hard and Impossible difficulties, as
well as for the Game Plus (New Game+, as us old school gamers know
it) have finally come to the US Marketplace. About freakin' time. It
should have been there from day one, instead of making gamers be...errr...creative.
Making a Hong Kong gamertag and downloading from the HK Marketplace
for the first month of the game's life is silly no matter how you
I was in too much
of a bad mood to even consider posting yesterday. Well, I did think
about it, but the end result looked too much like the ramblings of
someone who had not only lost his mind, but also lost his ability to
ever reclaim his sanity.
On to geek stuff,
I have one question; Am I the only person who no longer give a
crap about the Blu-ray HD-DVD battle? I think I must be since
the battle lines keep being redrawn every couple of weeks and
there's also news of another company claiming their side will have
an inevitable victory in the coming months. Here's the simple fact;
with how the lines keep being changed on who supports what, it's
safe to say that HD-DVD and Blu-ray will both be in the same state
of limbo come 2008.
While Blu-ray has
the PS3 to carry it's standard into battle, the PS3 just didn't
deliver enough for gamers. Therefore the PS3 is suffering in sales
and the Blu-ray standard is not being waved with the fierceness Sony
claimed would happen. On the other hand, while HD-DVD was once the
more ignored of the formats, it's still alive and well as new
companies (both retail and studios) keep jumping off the Blu-ray
bandwagon. When HD-DVD can claim Wal-Mart, Pixar, and other major
companies with major recognition, it's pretty obvious that the
battle will never end...at least not for a long enough time for a
possible replacement technology to come along.
don't see myself ever joining either of these teams as things
currently stand. Well, at least not for movies. I have too large of
a DVD collection and too many players to even consider replacing my
technology until the price points change completely. Maybe I'd
consider a HD-DVD drive for a PC if they become cheap and become
standard...or the same could be said for Blu-ray (but with Microsoft
on the HD-DVD side of things, it's more likely HD-DVD would become
the next PC friendly media). However, I'll stick with my DVD
players, my DVD movies for tangible media and other sources (like
Cable, etc.) for my digitally distributed HD movies.
(DS) was readily available. I did pick it up. Considering how
Zelda/Nintendo have no let me down before, it would be stupid to
ignore a new Zelda title...even if the control scheme is not one I
would normally approve of. Seriously, I have yet to see a game that
uses primarily the stylus on the DS that is actually well planned
and not just a gimmicky piece of shit that would have had more
potential on a normal control scheme.
That said, I have
not played Zelda yet. I bought it, but I wanted to get in some more
Rune Factory last night. I aimed to play a little, but since my
house was upgraded (in the game) I can now forge my own weapons,
shields, and accessories. So, I ended up playing way more than I
intended as I became determined to raise my forging and decoration
(skill for making accessories...strange name for such a skill...)
ranks so I can make some awesome stuff with my collection of ores
(materials needed to make stuff).
I also proceeded
to get married (in RF) and clear out the mountainous level. Sadly,
this may be where I put the game on hold for a while to play Zelda.
It's not that Rune Factory is a game I want to stop without
completing...but I'm in the middle of Summer (in game) and my next
dungeon is Misty-Bloom Cave.
For those who
don't know the game (and it's worth checking out), the game uses a
season system of months. Each month has 30 days, and there are four
months per year (spring, summer, fall, winter). Each day has a
certain amount of time (one real world second is equal to one in
game minute). You can sleep to end a day whenever you want, but then
you miss out on potentially mining new ores, finding new secrets,
and interacting with people in the town.
No my problem is
that Misty-Bloom can only be entered in the winter. This means I
have about 45 days to play before I can enter another dungeon and
continue with the main story. So far, I have put somewhere around
25-30 hours into the game, and it started at the start of spring.
So, by the time I reach the next dungeon, I'll have advanced the
colander the same amount of days I've already played. I don't feel
like just skipping days by sleeping to advance the plot, but I also
don't feel like playing another 45 days before I can get anything
In other words, I
think I'll be putting RF on the backburner as I allow Zelda to show
me if the stylus control scheme is a good or bad idea. Of course,
Zelda offers it's own frustrations...in particular, I've read you
keep having to enter and slightly progress in a special "master
dungeon" or main dungeon between each new level. In other words, you
have a dungeon that you keep having to repeat floors of. I've done
this before in RPGs and adventure games, and it's not my idea of
fun. Hopefully, once again, Zelda will take the opportunity to prove
me wrong. I really hope so.
One last thought
before I go. More news keeps coming out on the Guitar Hero 3 vs.
Rock Band front. This time it's
more tracks that have been announced for GH3.
Personally, I know
I'll get both games, but I am constantly thinking that GH3 will
simply be "that game to get me by" until RB comes along a month
later. Well, the new track list has me knowing that I'll enjoy that
month a little more. True, it'll probably be a half assed cover
(please be better than Radar Love's cover of a cover...please...),
but seeing something penned by Mike Ness (Social D's "Story of My
Life") is damned good news to me. I just hope they don't in the
retarded direction of covering a cover of this song, since it has
been covered before. While I may enjoy Reel Big Fish, if it turns
out to be something like a cover of their cover...well...boss
battles and power-ups will not be the only thing to anger me about
this game...besides Activision's and Neversoft's creative
direction...and the visual changes...and...ok...I think a few of the
songs and my need for a new edition of guitar jamming fun on the 360
are my only draws to this game until RB comes along.
I am not going to
get a lot of love for saying what I'm about to say. Last night, I
decided it was time to put down Rune Factory and do some chores.
Then I decided "screw being productive" and started Zelda: Phantom
Hourglass. I even played enough to get through the first dungeon (as
in the first real dungeon...where one would get the boomerang).
I played close to
three hours as I tried to collect extra rupies to purchase
treasures. I tried to master each type of control presented to you
at the start of your journey. I practiced twirling my stylus to make
Link do a summersault. I would circle Link to make his do spin
attacks until he got sick (literally, he would get too dizzy and
would need a break). I kept trying anything I could to get my money
worth from this game. I took the time to track down each treasure in
the dungeons I saw. I even sailed to places not intended to be my
current goal in order to explore the world.
With all of this,
I have one strong opinion of the game. In fact, I know my opinion
may or may not change as I play, since I'm only three hours into the
game. It's easy to form an initial impression of something and see
that change with time. Many games (of the RPG or adventure genres)
start out boring me and turn out great. I have learned to both love
games that I initially hated, and to feel the opposite as the game
bore me to tears (Rogue Galaxy comes to mind).
With Zelda: PH, my
impression may change, but for now...I HATE THIS GAME WITH A
PASSION. I want to like it, and I'm determined to finish the game,
if it's in my will power, but I cannot fathom why this game is being
heralded as it is.
It's being called
silly and dumb by those who don't play it (because of the stylus
only control scheme) and awesome and innovative by those who have
played it. Well, I started the opposite. I thought the stylus only
controls, while weird sounding, could be an interesting twist to the
Zelda franchise and a new direction/motivation for DS game
developers. I was a little worried that I wouldn't like it, but my
excitement was far more prevalent.
Having played the
game, I now feel like the stylus only scheme is a horrible crime
against the Zelda name. The only crime greater (and this one crime
is much, much greater) is the shit that was dubbed Zelda on the CD-i.
For one thing,
before I even touch the controls, there's an old problem from the
Wind Waker days. Namely, the sailing. It's slow and boring as all
hell. True, you don't have to change your wind direction with a
magical incantation on your baton, but it still doesn't mean the new
system (a powered ship) is any better. It takes way too long to get
anywhere. I hate to think of when I have the full sea chart and can
travel from one corner of the world to an opposite corner. It's slow
enough just going to the next island.
The real crime of
this game, however, is the controls. For one thing, the controls are
not nearly responsive enough. For example, you touch an area on the
screen to move in that direction. That's fine. However, to perform a
classic Link summersault, you have to draw a circle on the screen on
the edge your touching to keep moving. Well, once you get the sword,
this is not an easy task. You swing your sword by drawing a line
perpendicular to Link. Well, the game likes to take summersaults as
sword swings. To bash a tree (to find extra loot and maybe some
hearts) can take way too many attempts. It's just not fun taking
upwards of twenty attempts to bash a tree because Link is so damned
happy and eager to swing his (stolen) sword.
Then there's the
fact that swinging a sword is not as fluid as if you just needed to
hit a button. You have to draw a line to swing. To thrust, you have
to draw a line coming out from Link or radiating in a parallel
motion from Link's line of sight, so to speak. In other words, you
typically have to stop moving to prepare to draw a sword swinging
Beyond all of
that, there's a major problem with a game featuring any action on
the touch screen that requires touch screen controls. That is how
your hand may be blocking upwards of 50% (or even more) of the
screen at any given time. Nothing like a simple to defend against
enemy striking Link because the hand of the puppeteer that controls
him is blocking his vision. This is why I've always had a minor
issue with the touch screen. It may work for slower paced games or
for puzzle games, but it doesn't work for action.
Most of all, there
is not one damned thing the controls give you that could not be done
with the normal buttons. Movement? The d-pad. Sword? A face button.
Items? Another face button. Even the boomerang, which can be drawn
to follow a set path could be done other ways. If you don't believe
me, try playing Final Fantasy Adventure (the original...Sword of
Mana was a bad remake) and try the ice magic. Now speed that up a
little and you have the boomerang. Maybe some puzzles could have you
stop the action to use the stylus. However, the puzzles I'm thinking
of are pretty weak...like having to draw a number on a sign for how
many palm trees are on a beach.
There is honestly
no reason why the few parts that force stylus use (since Nintendo
licenses have to be touch sensitive for some lame ass reasons)
cannot be ones that stop the action. For example, drawing on the map
is not bad since it lets you take notes of what you may need to
know. However, the map screen is paused so why not allow the user to
calmly retrieve his/her stylus and do that part on his/her own time.
Maybe I'm alone in
thinking like this. Maybe the game is smoother than I think. Then
again, if that's the case, I need to stop making cell calls and
burning up minutes to talk to voices in my head. When I made a few
calls last night to ask people if they had bought the game yet (if
not, then they could get my copy for cheap once I finished or was
finished with trying). Sadly, all of these (possibly imaginary)
people I asked had bought the game. Also, all of these people were
not very happy...especially with the damned summersaults.
If this game did
something really new and different that could not be handled with
the buttons and d-pad, then stylus would have to be the way to go.
However, since nearly every important action (and I don't think
writing a number on a sign is important when you could just enter it
with an old fashioned typing menu) in this game is based on classic
button tested methods, there is no reason to force this control
scheme. I've seen some good uses of the touch screen in DS games
(Mario 64 DS, which offered both control schemes, did great with the
touch screen working as the analogue controller), but Zelda is not
one of these games. At the very least, they could have done more
like Mario 64 DS. Have two different set ups, and for those who hate
not being able to bash a tree (which used to be a simply press of
the A button on past Zelda games), let them use the buttons for
this. True, it would eat up the excessive number of quick menu
buttons, but then again, the start and select buttons could then get
real uses (as menu buttons).
I will try to
enjoy this game and I do hope that my mind changes, but I don't see
it happening. I just really hope, if I have the will power to finish
this thing, that there is nothing nearly as annoying as the triforce
unt from Wind Waker. Wait...oh shit...the Sea King dungeon comes to
mind (and how you must keep replaying certain areas repeatedly as
you progress through the other dungeons). Shit! I also recall that
this game is supposed to have excessive stealth areas (like on Wind
Blah. At least
Wind Waker gave me solid controls that could not make the fun parts
I played some more
Zelda: PH last night. I am really trying to get into this game. For
example, I spent some precious time just looking up, online, advice
on how to perform a somersault more easily. The good news is that
there is a better way than drawing circles and watching Link swing
his sword in return. It actually involves making a zig-zag patter
while running. It is not perfect (I still get sword play showing up
from time to time), but it is better than circles.
I also took some
time to understand the world around Link by sailing the seas with no
goal in sight. I saw uncharted islands, interesting enemies,
adventurers on ships, and golden frogs. In other words, I'm taking
my time to get into this game. Afterall, it takes a lot for me to
look at a Zelda game unfavorably.
I also played
through the required dungeons and towns between killing the boss of
the first real dungeon and getting to the boss room of the second
dungeon. There's actually a lot in that part of the game. You have
towns to explore, caves to discover, secret hidden locations to
find, a maze of fog to navigate, and several islands open to your
exploration. You also have a lot of back tracking to do. Way too
much for one's own enjoyment.
In fact, that's my
biggest complaint now with the game. The pace is screwy because you
constantly back track. For example, when you first find the fog
maze, you get through a lot of it and then are kicked back to the
beginning. Then you sail away from the fog, and explore an island.
Then you do some stuff (95% spoiler free in this post) and go back
to the maze and finally clear it. All so you could just do some more
sailing. You are constantly sailing and constantly back tracking.
The first partial dungeon in the game is actually a 13 floor monster
of a dungeon that you have to replay floors of over and over as you
progress in the game.
True, the controls
still anger me. It's not as much how they don't properly respond
(which is annoying, but the game is easy enough to make this
forgivable), but rather how your hand will block half of your view
most of the game. It's too easy for an enemy to make a cheap shot
attack that, in all honesty, is not a cheap shot. It's only "cheap"
because the hand of Link's controller is covering his vision, if you
get my meaning.
The back tracking,
however, is the annoyance that is almost unforgivable. Since the
game focuses on naval travel, like in Wind Waker, there is not much
to actually explore. Most of the world map is just a big blank
expanse of blue water. Islands are few and far between, and fighting
enemies from your boat is annoying and tedious since it just keeps
coming. At least land travel in other Zelda games allowed you to
explore for heart container pieces and other treasures (like the
cloaks and the ice rod in LttP). In fact, PH does not even include
heart container pieces. You can find a few whole containers (usually
with annoying challenges forced on you...like a sword duel that
requires you to make 100+ hits on another sailor without being hit
three times by his attack...while your hand covers half the screen),
but no other real treasure. Ok...there is "treasure", but it's all
stuff you sell for money or parts to decorate your ship (when did
Zelda become a decoration game?).
I think, if this
was not a Zelda game, it would have been different. I don't mean the
setting and story, since the plot is very non-epic and non-Zelda. I
mean that the game would have sold less, had more unhappy people (fanboys
will defend their Link and Zelda against all logic and criticism)
buying it, and it would have been better in my eyes. Part of the
problem with this game, on a basic level, is that this is not a good
example of how to carry on the Zelda name. This is a decent (not
good or bad) adventure game and a half-assed (bad) Zelda game.
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