I never shy away
from admitting when I'm wrong. So, I'll happily (or regretfully) say
that I was wrong when I said in the last week or so that Microsoft
and Bungie would not split and go their separate ways. Well, it
Bungie is now on their own. They still have their publishing
agreement with Microsoft, but now longer will Microsoft run the
retain a minority ownership in Bungie, but no longer do they run the
whole show. This might be interesting since it will give some
additional freedom to Bungie. If Microsoft plays their cards right
(and doesn't prove to be a bad third party publisher for Bungie's
products), this could just mean more potential for both companies to
flourish. However, if Microsoft becomes petty and small minded about
things, then Bungie will do great while Microsoft will take a hit
(which they can easily put up with) in the old profit department.
will mean that Bungie can focus on some new material and not be
forever doomed to being "that Halo company". Afterall, they did well
with Marathon, and maybe it's time to see another new
license/franchise under their belt.
On a different
note, this weekend sucked. I started with about eight hours of work
on Saturday. Since I work a standard Monday through Friday schedule,
and since I pulled some overtime on Friday, this made for a short
weekend. When you add in that I am on salary (no overtime pay), it
leads to a great way to start a weekend on the wrong foot.
I did get done in
time to watch the Pac-Man vs. Bararra fight on PPV with some
friends. It should have been a fun fight, but instead there was just
too much strategy for a lightweight battle of revenge with a title
on the line. In other words, the fight lasted a full 12 rounds and
went to a decision. Pac-Man didn't even through half as many punches
as he through in the first battle between these two legendary
fighters (and that match only lasted into the 11th round).
Sunday only made
things worse. On one hand, my thermostat started to freak out. In
the end, it was easy enough to fix...but it still devoured about two
hours of my time.
However, the true
cap for how bad this weekend was is how the Seahawks were shut out
for the first time in about 115 games. The game started alright.
Afterall, the first half was a true battle of defensive powers.
True, Hasselbeck gave up a sloppy interception to end the first
half, but the score was still only 0-7. That's not fatal or all that
bad for a team that usually becomes far more powerful in the second
interception must have, in combination with half time, destroyed all
of the Seahawk's players mentality or some shit. Since it was the
second half when Pittsburgh ran all over the Seahawks. Long runs
were given up. First downs rained upon the Steelers like the rain
fell in Seattle. Touchdowns came for the Steelers and yards never
came in for the Seahawks. It was a brutal and ugly match. To round
it out, when Branch was removed with a sprained foot, the day was
completely thrown away.
I'll try to be
optimistic. Afterall, the Steelers entered the game with the same
3-1 record as Seattle. Also, with D. J. Hacket out, and now with
Branch injured, Seattle was playing a passing game (since Alexander
can't run for shit while his left wrist is banged up and broken)
without all of the receivers who can make the important catches.
Next week is another week and another game.
However, if this
trend keeps up of winning one or two and losing one, then the post
season is going to be a long shot dream for a team that, on paper,
looked like a strong contender going into their first game of the
season. I guess the main challenge for now is to hope for San
Francisco and Arizona to start seeing some injuries. Afterall, the
Rams are a joke this season (as for Arizona...on paper at least).
This season is
just not going how one would expect. Maybe it's injuries, but I
think there's also some coaching issues. Holmgren is a great coach,
but he has some definite weaknesses. For example, against Arizona
(in the first Seattle loss of the season), he ended the game with
three timeouts and one second to start his final possession...why
not call some defensive timeouts when Arizona was running down the
clock on their final possession? That could have given the Seahawks
about a minute to a minute and a half on their final possession
(easily enough time to time the game and force overtime on a field
yesterday...the game was lost early on. So, when Hasselbeck was
pulled for Wallace, why not go another route? Give Frye (the third
string QB) a chance to show what he has. We has been with the
Seahawks since right after week one ended, and he was starting for
the Browns in week one. Maybe he could have handled the passing and
let Wallace enter as a receiver. Maybe we could have at least ended
things without being shut out for the second time this decade. It
could have also maybe opened up the possibility of seeing if Frye
could replace Wallace as the second QB and give a chance to fill in
our dying receivers with a man who knows how to catch and run
Anyway, the game
was horrible, the Seahawks fell apart in the second half, and there
is simply nothing left to do but move on and hope for a solid
showing from this point on. If we start to get back into the groove,
and stop getting injured (Pearman, Hacket, Alexander, Branch...too
long of a list of starters are injured or playing injured), maybe we
can see a good season and a good record despite one shitty start.
If the rumors are true, there will soon be a 40GB PS3 selling at
$400. That would be a first time for Sony this generation. They are
actually making a smarter decision about their console that just
can't gather any momentum.
However, this is
not going to save the console. Yes, the 40GB selling for $400 is a
way to offer a price point for a complete system that can compete
with the 360. Afterall, the 360, with a HDD, comes in at the same
general $400 range. However, this is not enough of a bandage to
correct what has happened so far with the current generation.
People have turned
away from Sony. Originally, the price played a key factor. However,
when the price failed to impress gamers, then the developers moved
away from Sony (as seen with many previously PS3 exclusives went to
the 360 or cross platform). This created a vacuum of disappointing
games and too little quality content to warrant (in many gamers'
minds) the price. So, when the price finally drops to a more
understandable range, it will not bring on the gamers. We still have
the issue at hand of no quality third party support. The price can
jump all over, but in the end, for the console to be anything more
than a Blu-ray movie player to most consumers, it will need content
to back it up.
However, more than
how this bandage doesn't serve any real purpose in the fight to save
a dying patient, it does leave me wondering and thinking about
When have we ever
seen a console more redesigned and reinvented in the first year of
it's life than we did with the PS3? The simple answer is that we
never have. This is an unprecedented situation. The PS3 came out in
a 20 and a 60GB version a year ago. The 20 was quickly laid to rest
and forgotten about since it was seen by too many people as the
inferior product. So, then the 60 was dropped in price (but not
enough so) as a larger version came along to become the premium
model. Then the 60 started to become harder to find and became more
of a joke as the one time premium model was dubbed the new inferior
product. This also angered the poor saps who purchased it last
November and thought they were getting a quality machine.
60 GB is vanishing from the UK. More than that, each time a
version of the PS3 is being laid to sleep, it first gets a price
cut. This is not an incentive to jump on the discounted price, since
you can bet that soon after the console (at least in that format)
will be obsolete and removed from the public.
This yo-yo effect
of Sony trying to save their number one position in the past two
generations is not going to help them. Afterall, why buy a PS3
today, when there are no good games worthy of a purchase of a PS3
over a 360 and the price is high? Especially when I could always
wait about four months and see the price drop again as a larger HDD
comes along, and maybe wait for dual-shock (rumble) controllers.
Then, once that happens in the spring, there will probably be rumors
of an even larger HDD or a better price new feature. Then I could
wait four more months, by which time there will still not be enough
content to make the PS3 a worthy investment, and find the newest
stuff being discounted (before being discontinued) for a better
deal. Of course, I will not want the discounted hardware since it's
being phased out (and who wants to buy something that's supposed to
be new, but is really being eliminated?), so I'll eye the new
version. But, I know I could wait four more months to get it at a
It is a never
ending cycle. Well, it's never ending right now, but Sony needs to
end it. The original PS3 models that came to the UK (only about 6
months ago) are both on their way out. If a console and it's
hardware are not worthy of being sold for six months before being
discontinued, then it's definitely not worth the investment by
myself. So, instead of jerking around customers and potential
customers, maybe Sony should try playing it cool, giving a good deal
(maybe make some game bundles that run at the same price as the base
consoles...same hardware, but with content), maybe a minor price cut
(but nothing that looks like a clearance sale), and trying to woo
some of the third party developers into giving Sony a little
consideration. In order to win over customers, Sony cannot come on
too strongly, and in order to seal the deal, they will have to win
over the developers. Afterall, it's the games, not that hardware,
that ultimately matter (with only a few exceptions...like the
gears...As if I was not done feeling bad about the weekend and being
disappointed with the Seahawks and how they bombed on Sunday, the
news gets worse. Mack Strong, the longest tenured current Seahawk
player (second most games for any Seahawk ever), and one hell of a
consistent and amazing full back
is done playing. He injured his neck on Sunday, which went
fairly unnoticed by me during the game since everyone was being
substituted out for back up players (to limit injury to the supposed
stars). It looked like a season ending injury, so Strong is packing
it in and moving on to greener pastures.
Morris and Alexander cannot run worth a damn right now (both playing
injured and Alexander is obviously shaken to his core), losing their
front man and guard is going to only make the running game even more
sad and pathetic. Hopefully things round out, but it's looking like
the Seahawks are shutting down shop and should be making some plans
in the off season for some major restructuring. Maybe it's time to
see what Frye can really do (as a backup QB) so that Seneca Wallace
can do a little running...because that man can run like the wind. At
least he could when he could pass worth a damn as the QB when
Hasselbeck was injured last year.
After more than a
week of owning it, I'm still playing Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. I am
also actually, to a small extent, enjoying the game. Well, it's not
as much that I'm enjoying it as much as it's filling the void I have
for a quick and easy diversion.
On that note, one
of my largest issues with this game is that it is an easy diversion.
I have only died once, and it was due to my hand blocking part of
the screen as an easy enemy shot hit me while low on hearts at the
start of the game (when you have only three heart containers).
Beyond that, I have never had any use for the medicine bottles
(which restore health) nor have I had any moment when I feared that
I would see the game over screen. Even bosses, which should be a
challenge by simply being a boss, are offering absolutely no
However, the one
thing I'm really seeing is that touch screen controls are not needed
in this game. I can see using only touch if a game needs it, since
it's hard to flip between using the d-pad and buttons then to stylus
on the fly during an action scene. However, there are only a few
real uses of the touch screen that the d-pad could not replicate.
There is plotting
course with your ship. However, when you plot the course, the game's
action is stopped. So, this would be a good time to switch control
methods without having to worry about the flow of the game being
interrupted. Even if you want to keep the annoying sea based enemy
encounters (which you handle with a tap of the stylus to fire your
cannons at a target), you could still keep the stylus restricted to
the boat sections (which would not have caused me nearly as much
Another time when
it's useful, but definitely not needed, is when your using you map
to take notes of puzzle solutions and areas of interest. This is not
hard to handle with an alternating control since the map screen does
pause the action. Also, this is not even really needed since this
feature only replicates the time tested method of using pencil and
The last real use
for the touch screen, and the only one that occurs during the
regular action of the game as you control Link is the boomerang.
However, while this is stylus controlled since it's needed, I have
an alternate idea for how the game handled this. My idea is simply;
the boomerang is a crutch used by the developers. It's as simple as
In the past Zelda
games, up until Twilight Princess, the boomerang was simply an item
that could go long range to hit switches, grab loose items (and
keys), and stun some enemies. So, why is it now that Link needs to
boomerang like an addict needs another hit of heroine? Link is
honestly addicted to the boomerang...or is it that the developers
are hooked? The boomerang is no longer the boomerang we all knew for
several decades. The boomerang is now the one-size-fits-all cure for
nearly 3/4 of the games puzzles. It's obsessive and annoying.
Instead of forcing
so much boomerang, how about the puzzles get a very slight tweak
(most would be tweaked with a little placement of targets) to make
it so that boomerang could be handled with d-pad and buttons? It
would work. Anyone who argues differently and has played the game is
simply not accepting that the stylus is almost forced just because
of one item (boomerang).
As for the other
stylus important items, like the hook shot (now a grappling hook)
and the bomb-chus (remote controlled bombs that move like
mice)...they don't need the stylus either. The bomb-chu routes could
be handled with d-pad usage just like the stylus does for them. The
game does pause when you prepare a bomb-chu, so this does not need
stylus control to keep the game's action fluid. The grappling hook
can also be adjusted (or should I say the grappling targets could be
slightly moved in some rare cases?) to work with the d-pad. Very
rarely do you need a grappling target that is not, literally, a
direction not found on the d-pad.
For those who've
played the game, you might be asking yourself a few questions (or
pointing fingers at my hatred of this as a sign of my ignorance).
How would we set up a tight rope (one use of the grappling hook)? By
lining up two targets and firing across both at once. How would you
lay bombs with precision? The same way we've done since you could
first pick up bombs in Link to the Past (buttons and d-pad). With a
few simple considerations and the slight movement of certain targets
(be they targets for the boomerang, bow, bombs, grappling hook, or
whatever), the game would work 100% with the d-pad and buttons. The
stylus was only forced on us because the developers placed items
just off of the either d-pad friendly directions and because they
have an unnatural and insane desire to force the boomerang on us for
In fact, the
boomerang use is so tedious and overly used that I will usually
clear out all enemies in a room and immediately select the boomerang
as my current tool. Why? Because I know I'll be using it very soon.
You use it more in a dungeon than the tool you find in said dungeon
(despite past Zelda conventions of making the newest tool the one
you learn to use through puzzle uses). You could even use the
boomerang similar to how we use it with the stylus with one change;
Make it a d-pad
and button thing, but have this minor addition. If you continue to
hold down the boomerang button after you fire it, you retain control
of it instead of controlling Link. Once you let go, you can go back
to controlling Link as the boomerang finishes it's business unaided.
Anyway, I don't
say this all as someone who's just a few dungeons into the game
(obvious by me talking about the grappling hook and bomb-chus with a
familiar tone). I'm one dungeon, and one more annoying play through
of the Ocean King Temple (the overly repeated dungeon that you play
through about 6 or 7 times), away from laying this game to rest.
Unlike those people who say the stylus has reinvented the genre, I
can still see the forest for the trees. I can still remember what it
was like to find maps to dungeons (not automatically start with
them), control Link without blocking some of my screen from view,
using the boomerang as a simple tool and not a miracle item, and
allowing the game to showcase a grand adventure and not as a tech
demo of stylus usage.
The game is fun. I
won't deny it. However, I imagine I would have more fun with a
control scheme that did not leave some obvious room for annoyances.
Especially annoying is anytime a puzzle requires specific drawings.
I have the hand of an artist...a dead artist. I cannot draw a
straight line for shit. I am not alone in this. Having to draw
specific symbols at different points in the game (and I dread the
final boss since I've heard drawing is important) is not a good
idea. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrows tried this, and it was the only
Castlevania game that I got to the final boss of and quit in disgust
(the game did not like my attempts to seal the boss with a specific
symbol...even after the 45th time in a row).
The DS has some
cool potential, even some untapped after all these years of being on
the market. However, the DS has some of it's potential in not using
the touch screen or making it entirely optional. Move a few posts,
targets, crystals, and switches just a few squares, and Zelda could
have been the ideal game to offer two control schemes and allow the
gamer to either use the tested method (d-pad) or to experiment
(stylus). Less force of a control scheme would allow more people to
accept it on their own terms. Plus, while the DS does have touch
abilities, it is also the best and most supported portable system on
the market (ok...the most supported and best selling system out
there...portable or not). Use some innovation, but also allow for
some room to enjoy gaming without forcing unneeded change.
With a few small
changes, that would never have been noticed, the stylus in Zelda
(except when on the ship) would have been an unneeded change. Of
course, removing the boat would have also been cool and just allow
some fast travel (and maybe a cut scene to introduce the ocean boss
battles without having to constantly bore oneself with the boat
travel design...it's better than Wind Waker, but not by much).
Time for some
Smash Brawl news. It's good when news comes out that I can actually
care about. It's even better when it's good news...but I don't quite
see things that way with what has been announced and hinted at.
First of all, it's
looking like SSBB is being delayed. True, there's been no
official word of a delay in the US, but since the Japanese version
is now being dated for the end of January (2008) and the US version
is now listed as TBD, it's not looking like Brawl will see the light
of the holiday season.
On the bright
side, there are a lot of games coming out between now and the
original December release date for Brawl. So, it's not like we'll
bee lacking games despite this possible delay. Between Nintendo
giving us Mario Sunshine, and other companies giving us titles like
Rock Band, Mass Effect, and too many other games to name, there will
be plenty to keep one entertained on both
the single player side of things (which looks pretty cool in
Brawl) and the obvious multiplayer/party side of things.
Still, it's sad to
see this game get pushed back to a time (potentially January or
February) when usually only the worst of games come along. It's not
like that's bad for us gamers, since we will probably not have much
else at the start of 2008 to keep us going, but it will not help the
sales of the game, which can always benefit from a holiday rush.
The other news on
Brawl that has me worried is
the newest challenger. Yes, Sonic is now in the game and it's
official. I understand bringing in outsiders, as in non-Nintendo
characters, to some extent. However, I still feel there are enough
Nintendo characters (and Nintendo exclusive third party characters)
to keep the game interesting. For example, Captain Olimar from
Pikmin could be brought in with some fun effects. There's also a
whole assortment of untapped Fire Emblem potential, including the
characters who focus less on swords (hint, hint Nintendo...). There
is just so much un-tapped potential that seems to be ignored in
favor of the outsiders.
especially feel Sonic is a poor fit. Yes, there is the
pseudo-incestuous feel of
Sega and Nintendo being on the same game. However, I am thinking
more of what the characters can do. For example, Solid Snake can at
least handle both sides of what's expected in a Smash game. He can
attack with melee moves and he has a nice arsenal of firepower for
ranged attacks. The same can be seen of any Smash character, with a
few being slightly tweaked to "fix" the system.
has only one move. It's all he'll ever have. Yes, he did have fire,
electricity, and water shields in Sonic 3 (the best Sonic game), but
I don't see those appearing in Smash...especially since
the move list, so far, for Sonic is very basic and sad. Yes, he
can spin dash. Yes he can...umm...spin dash and charge it. Hell, his
recovery move (up+B) isn't even him...it's his environment. Making a
spring is not Sonics power...it's Sega's level designer's power.
Maybe if the move list allowed for some Sonic based shields from
Sonic 3, it would be different...but with spin dash and charging
spin dash, and making shit out of the ground...it just feels out of
place and limited.
Of course, there's
one reason Nintendo is now seeing Sonic in their precious game. It's
to make the fans happy. Ever since Smash Melee was announced, rumors
started to fly that Sonic would make an appearance. There were fake
secret methods of unlocking him in Melee. There were rumors of how
Sonic should appear in any sequels to melee. There was a lot of
hype, and now that Nintendo and Sega are as close as can be (which
will always feel incestuous to an old school gamer who relives fond
memories of the SNES/Genesis days) the hype can be fulfilled for the
fans. I just wish that other Sega people would have been considered
first (like Wren from the Phantasy Star series, one of the Gunstar
Heroes, an Altered Beast which could play like Shiek/Zelda from
Melee with transformations, a Shining Force hero to battle Ike
http://www.smashbros.com/en_us/characters/ike.html, or any of a
dozen other potential Sega mascots).
At least it's not
like the whole game is being changed. Afterall, if one character
doesn't suit me, I'll have dozens of others to chose from. If I
really hate the character, I could always just remove it from any
computer matches I play or single it out as a target for all of my
aggressions. Too bad the release date could not be fought against so
anything, I hope the lame voice and the bad music of the video clips
on those links are not in the real game. I had enough of a bad
time trying to tolerate that shit when Sonic was good (especially in
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