Sunday, December 23, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week: The Wrap-up

As I start writing this, there are only a handful of days left in '07 (if your hand could hold 8 days). Looking back on the 2K7 posts I've made, I'm struck by how few there actually are that kept to my "vision". Things came up and getting around to playing that new game every week sort of fell apart. But, I have to say that at least I enjoyed the games I did get in and it's probably more than what I would have played if I had started with no plan at all.

So, for 2008, I've come up with a different idea (not necessarily better, just different). In my "collection", there are games that I really should have played by now. Games that fueled forum posts, graced magazine covers, and landed on numerous "piles of shame". As I seem determined not to be dragged into the next generation of gaming, I think it's especially important that I tackle each of these before moving on to more high definition pastures.

For the most part, I haven't picked any particular order for these. Only a few, like October's fare, for example, fit a particular theme. I also decided to go on a monthly schedule as these games warrant more than what I can manage in a week's time.

Jan. Final Fantasy X (PS2)
Feb. Ico (PS2)
Mar. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (Xbox)
Apr. Beyond Good & Evil (Xbox)
May Metal Gear Solid 2 (PS2)
Jun. God of War (PS2)
Jul. Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Aug. Splinter Cell (Xbox)
Sep. Halo 2 (Xbox)
Oct. Manhunt (Xbox) \ Fatal Frame (Xbox)
Nov. Okami (PS2)
Dec. Devil May Cry 1, 2 & 3 (PS2)

All year: Animal Crossing (Cube)

I haven't put in DS or GBA games as they can be played at off-times at work. These are ones that I have to be at a console for the experience. While there aren't any Gamecube games on the list, having Animal Crossing be a year long run seemed like a good way to experience all the assorted holiday treats it provides.

And since every other source of on-line gaming goodness is doing their End of the Year specials, I humbly present my own:

Major stories of 2007:

A Wii Comes Home - Yes, this was the year I dove into a platform that I expressed perhaps more hate for than the DS. Insanely, the Wii is just as hard to get this Xmas as last, selling nearly a million units in November alone! Since its original release it has never been "easy" to obtain. I got mine by being in Gamestop at the right time. And I've been very happy with the purchase. The Wii is a nice, simple kind of gaming fun. It may herald the end of the "serious" video game, but I have a feeling that the last generation was the final bastion for that style anyway.

Still no HD - Unless things change dramatically, there will be no 360 (or even less chance, a PS3) in my corral of game devices. Hell, I already run 5, so why do I need more? Basically the problem is price and selection - the Premium is $350, but I really would prefer the Elite, which is another $100. Five hundred dollars (or more) for a game system (assuming tax and some accessories) is just ridiculous. I'll get a 360 when I can get a Premium system for $250.

A DS for mom - Yup, seemed like a long shot, but she likes it. Plays the Clubhouse games during commercials while watching TV. I guess Ninny's plan to make a system even casual gamers can play didn't go so badly.

A change of MMO's - This year saw a major shift - one away from FFXI. We had come to a halt as far as what our characters could do. Funny how easy it was to walk away from 2 1/2 years of building up a character. We've started into Guild Wars (after a brief detour into Dungeon Runners) and that seems to be going very well.

End of Year Collection Tally - The total number of my games (PS2, Xbox, Cube, DS, GBA, Wii, SNES, N64, PS1) as of the end of 2007 is 880. And I still need to add in my Genesis and original Gameboy games. Good grief!

Game of the Year - Mind you, this is "my" game of the year, as in what game did I play this year that I had the most fun/best experience with. The nominee's for Chessasaur's Game of the Year 2007 are:

Bioshock (PC) for presenting a vision of an undersea city gone mad
Guild Wars (PC) for showing me there can be beauty and fun again in an MMO
Call of Duty (PC) for putting me in the blasted streets of Stalingrad and caring about my virtual squad mates
Wii Sports (Wii) for pure bowling and golfing joy
Oblivion (PC) for a rich sword and sorcery world (but with ugly people)
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS) for letting me touch a dream

And the winner is...........Wii Sports! As much as the other games stand out, Wii Play was the portal into a new type of gaming. It was more than going through the simulated motions. It was lots of OMG moments when a pin or a ball did something I didn't expect and I broke that 4th wall and was part of the game.

Congratulations to all the contenders and let's see what 2008 brings!

Monday, December 03, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #48: Home stretch for 2007

With the last bits of 2007 running out of that giant hourglass in the void, a few changes have occurred in my gaming landscape.

Dungeon Runners has pretty much run it's course. While it was a great experience at first, it hasn't been able to maintain our interest. Too many reused tilesets for levels, too many reused monsters, not enough variety of combat situations, and an increasingly disappointing return on King's coins. All in all, a good 3 months game that we should have cut off before the credit cards got charged again. Oh, well. I guess it's ok in the "supporting the little folks of gaming" sort of way.

In its stead we have taken up Guild Wars in a big way. A bit frustrating at first because of the abrupt apocalyptic change in the world, we went back and prepared better and are now a much more effective fighting force. (As with most RPG's, a magic user is still basically a wimp and a warrior with a sword is a far better damage dealer.)

I've had a chance to run through the Call of Duty 4 demo and for the most part, it's very much just an updated CoD 2. I seem to get shot a lot more than CoD2 and there are more people yelling at me because I guess every soldier in the modern army has a headset on. When given a choice for an Xmas present between this game and one where I get to shoot zombies with the Wii-mote (Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles), it was an easy choice. Zombies FTW!

Monday, November 12, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #45: The more they stay the same...

It's been 2 weeks since my last post, and, frankly, not much has changed. I'm still playing Halo, FFIII and Dungeon Runners. I think I got some time with a couple other games, but nothing to make note of (just sort of made sure the ones I bought worked ok). I'm staying on budget, for the most part - a welcome relief to the general flow, I'm sure. However, Black Friday will be here in less than 2 weeks. Will a 360 actually make it onto the credit cards? I saw a Mass Effect trailer the other night and it looks amazing, so I can't rule another console purchase out. Hard to believe that the 360 has been out for 2 years already.

One interesting note with FFIII: What facination do Japanese game designers have with credits? I was playing what could be considered the first chapter in the game last night and when I beat this Djinn, credits starting running on the screen! I couldn't imagine that the game was over already (and it wasn't, of course), so why did they put them in there like that? I saw something similar when I played the Hamtaro game. That game had 3 sets of credits depending on how far you played the game. Too wierd!

I've gotten back into gaming podcasts, but I'm not forgetting my collection of games for visions of "newer and better" experiences. I'm just using them as a means to stay up to date and because they are fun to listen to.

With the end of the year nearly upon us, I've been thinking about plans for next year's gaming. At this point, I'm thinking about dedicating each month of 2008 to a different Triple-A title. In other words, play games that any self-respecting gamer has already played. I'll have to work on a list and maybe even print up a calendar. Details to follow so watch this space.

Monday, October 29, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week# 43: Info dump

I had hoped to get to this blog again sooner, but time (and fires) had other plans. Basically I just wanted to reconnect with this journal and put a few items down for posterity.

Game-wise, I've been playing a few different titles - sort of how people say they are reading several books at one time. When Halo 3 came out, I decided it was time to really try to make some progress with Halo 1. For the most part, I have. I've actually gotten to the point of rescuing the captain and finding out that the structure floating in space is called *gasp* Halo! So that's where the name came from. Who knew?

On my DS I've been playing Final Fantasy III. Having the DS is great - I can play for 15-20 minutes before bed, while I'm already in bed and can close it up, put it on the head board and go to sleep without getting up again. The game itself is well made, but I will echo the critics in saying that the touch screen is very under used. I normally don't even take out the stylus. This isn't really a bad thing, however. Running an RPG with just buttons is fine with me.

I got out my old (very old by game standards) Zelda Oracle of Seasons CGB cart and am playing it in my trusty SP. And oh, does it look sweet! The colors they used were terribly muted by the Color Gameboy's hardware (not that the CGB was a bad unit - no such thing; the original GBA was bad!). I will likely have to get another SP to hang onto for the future. Nothing else plays the original Gameboy games in such glory (except the Gameboy player, to a degree).

Online, we are still playing at Dungeon Runners. Nice to play for an hour or so at a time. Nothing too hard or too frustrating, but I do wish it had a bit more diversity of monsters and tile sets.

One thing I have had to change is my videogame addiction spending habits - in short, I was running amok with the credit cards. A hundred dollars a week (or more!) is just not acceptable. And, what I realized is that, I've already got a mountain of games to play that represent some of the best there is to play! Everytime I look at my collection, I frequently see a set of 3 or more games, that I'd love to play that have never seen the inside of my consoles. What's the point of adding to that pile, especially if the games I'm adding are inferior to what I already have? So, I'm running on a budget now. I have to really plan my next purchase instead of just buying whatever looks good. With the coming holiday season (and glut of new releases), that's going to take some restraint. I know my first purchase post-budgeting is going to be Manhunt 2, but I still can't decide if it's going to be for the Wii or PS2. At this point, probably the Wii. (Interesting note: Will Wright, game dev master god, was recently quoted as saying the Wii was the only real "next generation" system, because the others were just graphically enhanced versions of what was already on the market. And ya know what, that's why I got a Wii! There isn't anything the PS3 or 360 can do that can't be done on the respective previous platforms, just in lower resolutions. I remember thinking that at least the Wii wasn't just another game-pad machine.)

Well, that's it for now. With any luck, I'll be able to restart my real Game-a-Week program in the near future - 2008 if nothing else!

Monday, September 24, 2007

2K7 Game-a-week Week#39: But not really...

I have to admit that my "Game-a-Week" plan has fallen apart. Not only am I not working on a title a week, but the posts aren't even always a weekly event or directed toward a single game. Well, better to get something out then nothing.

I wanted to mention something that happened about a month ago. Our merry band of FFXI characters have been given a timeout. The three of us decided to halt our subscriptions as the game was getting to be too much - too much "work" to get up in levels after 71, too much time to get anything done, too much risk in getting killed, too much trouble to get a group of people together to do things we couldn't do ourselves. So, we walked away and by the end of November we have to decide if it's worth re-upping to keep our characters alive. It's quite possible they will be kept on the servers, but there are no guarantees. In the meantime, we have gotten into Dungeon Runners, a sort of Dungeon Siege meets WoW-lite. Lots of fun, but not a lot of depth. We all have copies of Guild Wars and Neverwinter Nights 2 that will probably see action soon.

Halo 3 comes out tomorrow and, like many recent video game events, I'm on the shoulder of the road, watching it go by. While I do have two current gen systems (the Wii and DS), they aren't what you would call gaming powerhouses on the order of the 360 or PS3. But I find myself still digging in, content in my trenches with last gen games that I am continuing to buy.

I really don't feel like I need the new systems. They cost too much, the games are too expensive, and unless you have an HD TV, they don't look that good. I got the Wii because I liked the motion control idea and the online aspect, even if I only get a few of the offered titles. Is the Wii contributing to the diluting of the hardcore game industry? Probably. Does that make me complicit? In a small way, yes. Does that bother me? No, as this movement will continue as long as the money trail is there to follow.

I've been in a similar position in the past, namely when the N64 came out, and then later when the PS2/Xbox/Cube era started. However, I think this time is different (famous last words) because the technology of the past is still very good, at least by my standards. There's also the fact that I have amassed a library of hundreds of titles that I haven't played. I don't need to go buy a new game; just pick one off the shelf without a dot on it (or one that hasn't been opened lol). The Wii and DS give me some connection to newly marketed games (can't resist all the advertising) but even those are in the affordable range.

So, Halo 3, go save the universe without me. Maybe I'll finally finish Halo 1 or even open Halo 2!

Monday, September 17, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week# 37: Game Retreat #2

For the second time this year, my brother came to visit and it was a week long GameFest! We got him hooked on the Wii via Wii Sports and were even able to find one at a Circuit City that he could take back with him. Our game for the trip was Rayman's Raving Rabbids which actually only lasted about 3 or 4 days. The mini-games were very funny, but they reused some too much and others, that looked interesting, were just quick one offs. A very enjoyable game, but not one with much replayability and, I'm sorry to say, had a pretty lame ending. (Did the programmers just get tired at the end or did they run out of time?) We are planning on putting it up on eBay soon. Tiger Woods '07 for the Wii got quite a bit of play too, but I didn't do very well until I got some tips from my "golf pro" brother. We also got into some paper games like Lost Cities, Dungeon Quest (which I want to make a computer version of), and a cash-less version of Monopoly. Add in a fantastic Indian cuisine dinner and it was a great vacation!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Resident Wii-vil FTW

Last night I shook off a little zombie monkey that had been on my back since I bought RE4 for the Wii - specifically, could I play it.

My sole experience with RE4 had been the demo disk, which concludes with a frantic battle in the village. On the Cube, I was able to complete it, but only after a number of defeats (including getting my head chain-sawed off) and the overwhelming feeling that I had just been damn lucky to finish. It's a hard fight.

Knowing that and how "quirky" the Wii controls are, almost made me skip getting the game altogether. Even after I bought it, I was afraid I wouldn't be coordinated enough to stay alive while all the villagers were trying to kill me. So last night I decided to see and I'm happy to report that (after fewer deaths than on the Cube) I was able to survive the onslaught. The biggest advantage was the aiming - trying to aim with the control sticks on the Cube was never very easy. With the Wii-mote, I could target much quicker in tight spots like the bottom floor of the tower. Also, not having independent camera control made it a little easier, I think. Less chance of looking where I couldn't fire. The "quick knife" function is very useful too - for fighting and for quickly opening boxes and barrels.

So, the smelly little ape is gone and I will have to see how much farther I can go without losing my head.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On Older Games: Echoes in the Night

I had some time last night for a little pre-bed gaming and decided upon a handful of PS1 titles. My thought was that I would go through a few titles, figuring I wouldn't spend much time on any of them. Just at random, I started with a game called Echo Night.

I didn't get to any of the others before having to finally shutdown around midnight.

Made by the same group that created "King's Field" (NOT a resounding endorsement), EN is a first person survival horror game that looks all of its 8 years old. Since "game years" are much like "dog years", the game looks more like it is 25 years old. Textures are muddy, character models look like they were carved from a block of wood with an axe, and movement speed is something just above a crawl. By even PS2 standards, it was a graphical mess. So why did I keep playing it?

Because the story had me hooked (and I didn't get stuck on any of the puzzles). Take a story about a lost cruise ship, throw in some ghosts and a few flashbacks, mix with some family intrigue and I wasn't able to stop, even though I knew it was probably one of the crudest games I could play short of Space Invaders.

It all got me to thinking about the merit of playing older games. How much of the value of a game is graphics and special effects, and how much is story? I know I have a limited amount of time to play games and a huge collection to pick from. Most of the games I have are from platforms with vastly better visual quality then the PS1 games, but I have always been unable to be prejudiced against older consoles. Does that just make me foolish or a dedicated gamer?

Monday, July 30, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week #30: Short term results

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since I cut myself off from the constant flood of game news and podcasts. (During this time I also was literally cut off from it at work with the installation of new content filters. Premonition? Maybe.) And the result?....Calm, mostly.

Without the repeated bombardment of previews, scoops, interviews, press event coverage and whatnot, I'm feeling a renewed fondness for my existing game collection that I think I was starting to lose. The only downside is that with the exception of the DS and Wii, I don't really have much on the other platforms left to shop for.

** Insert a one week break here. Thought I posted this already.. **

When I said I didn't have much to shop for, I wasn't being entirely honest. While nothing "new" is being put out on Xbox1, Gamecube, and (for the most part) PS2, I always seem to find some title that I have missed and want. For example, I got Black and Delta Force BHD for the Xbox, and Th3 Plan and Amplitude for the PS just these last couple of days. I still haunt eBay and just got an old copy of Fear Effect along with 4 PS2 titles I never had. Sometimes I think my standards have slipped a little and it often seems I buy games more like a stamp collector than a gamer. The Collection now stands at (counting PS2, Xbox1, Cube, N64, SNES, GBA, DS, PS1) just under 800.

The latest MMO we are playing is Dungeon Runners. It is a blast! Like a cross between the old Runescape and Dungeon Siege. It has replaced any thoughts of FFXI which was starting to get way too annoying. If I were Morbo, I'd consider getting a good retirement plan setup - quick!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #28: The Transformation of an E3 Epiphany

I'm hoping this doesn't go on too long as it isn't what you would call "earth shaking news" (that happened in Japan today).

It all started with last week's E3, or rather the gaming media's coverage of the new "mini-" E3 up in Santa Monica. The websites and podcasts have been dishing up a Hometown Buffet of items on new games, the war between the console makers, and how great the future of gaming will be. As a dedicated gamer (or nut, take your pick), something was becoming clearly obvious to me. My epiphany was that like it or not, costly or not, I was going to have to have an Xbox 360 AND a PS3 if I didn't want to miss all the incredible gaming experiences that were building on the horizon. I felt this was going to be a fact of life as important as eating McDonalds french fries - you could go without them, but would you really call that living?

That same night (or the next), I got a chance to play a game I got from Gameworld - the old Transformers game for PS2. I haven't had a chance to see the new movie, but I saw that the old game had pretty good reviews and I found a nice copy for a decent price (complete with manual, of course). I had a bit of difficulty at first (one of the games that maps several features to the shoulder buttons), but after an hour or so, I was fairly hooked. Nice 3D graphical environments, good selection of weapons even on the early missions, decent controls, good camera, and I could turn Optimus Prime into a semi-truck. That night, lying in bed, I thought about something that is frequently not far from my mind - how the hell am I going to play (much less finish) all the games I've bought. I have hundreds of titles that I haven't ever even booted up, that I would probably like just as much as Transformers - probably more.

Then it hit me - I already have my Library of Eden. The quality of the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube games is more than sufficient to transport me to other worlds. And they are the zenith of what I've come to expect from a videogame. I grew up with games that were self contained without downloadable content, friends lists, or (worse) patches. Then why did I feel like I was missing out not having a 360 or PS3? Because I'm flooding myself with podcasts, and websites, and magazines that are all talking about the new systems and their games!

That's why I'm changing a few things. For now, I'm staying away from gaming podcasts completely and going back to MP3-books. Also, I'm only visiting gaming websites for review info and to see what is releasing for the week. What I'm not changing is trying to get in as much play time as possible.

(I should mention that while I did feel it "necessary" to get a Wii, it doesn't really fall into the same category as the 360 and PS3. It's cheaper, doesn't need HD, and because of the motion controls, it offers a different experience than the other consoles.)

So, I'll see if this relieves some of my "next gen" anxiety. I'll never say never when it comes to something new, but for now I'm happy with the "old gen".

Quick Bits: We all got Promy's done on Saturday with the help of Jinxy, Skorn, and Hell! All 3 done in about 3 hours....Playing Super Paper Mario on the Wii. I have to admit, they did a great job with the controls. It wouldn't have been as much fun on the Cube....Doing a little GTA GBA. Overhead view is ok, but not great....Also playing a little Lego Star Wars for GBA. Nice to see that the levels are different, but it gets a little too repetitive sometimes.

Monday, July 09, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #27: Where do Wii go from here?

It happened so suddenly, I didn't even have time to waffle. I was in Gamestop and they had them on a Thursday during my lunch break. Not with bundles, just on their $249.99 own. It was now or who knew when. So now it's official.

I have a Wii.

"What??", you cry. "The lone wolf Wii hater has given up and joined the sheep?!?"

I'll admit it's a little hard to explain. I have wanted a "new" system, but the idea of dropping $600-$700 for a 360 or a PS3 (after tax and games) just seemed ridiculous. The Wii is a bargain at $200 (if you figure out the pack in game) and it has some features that other's don't, like built-in wireless network support. There have been some games I have wanted (like Super Paper Mario and the Wii version of RE4) plus more on the way - ones that are Nintendo exclusives. I was also attracted to the online concept, admittedly not as robust as Xbox Live, but not as annoying. And some of it might be the continuing hype and lack of availability (even after 8 months, it's still almost impossible to find unless you get lucky like I did). We covet that which we can't have (or something like that).

But even after I bought it, the Wii sat under my desk for 3 weeks before I opened it. I felt that if I broke the invisible seal (it, oddly enough, wasn't actually sealed), I'd be joining what may be a regression in videogame quality and content. This system is becoming so wildly popular that cut rate developers will be falling over each other so fast, trying to get something out on the shelves to sell to unsuspecting "casual gamers", that we could see a recurrence of the Crash of '83. These titles (some of which are already showing up) would be the kind of inoffensive and vacuous tripe that not even the most regular church-going soccer mom could object to. And with an install base in the millions, almost anything that has a hint of consumer awareness with the Walmart crowd should sell enough to make publishers green-light virtually any dreck.

Eventually, it was setup or take back time - I took the red pill and fell down the rabbit hole. It isn't Wonderland, but it's not bad.

Packed like a fancy tea set from Tokyo, you can't escape the aesthetic quality of the system. It has the outward look and feel of expensive Apple components. The console itself feels like no space inside was wasted. Even the external power supply is modest in size and completely encased in a neutral colored plastic to further distance itself from view. Setup, both unit and software was as simple as anything you'd expect from Nintendo - in other words, click, plug, power, go. The much maligned (by me) remote had an almost eerie quality to the way it just slightly vibrated each time I moved to a different key on the on-screen keyboard - not unlike the feel you'd get running your fingertip across a real one. In no time at all, my Wii was communicating with the Nintendo mothership and all was as smooth as Japanese silk.

Unlike the nearly archival quantity of games I have for other systems, I own only 4 so far for the Wii, not counting a game I downloaded. Instead of getting games just because they were cheap, I decided to go with the top titles for the system - something I will try to uphold during what is certain to be a holiday season of quick cash-in shovelware and drastic discounting of titles that didn't do so well at launch. I may make liberal use of Gamestop's return policy to try titles that have questionable control formats, like driving games. (One thing Ninny needs to work on is downloadable demos.)

My game time with the Wii has been extremely enjoyable. The much maligned (by me again) Wii Sports has been lots of fun for me and Ghosty, plus Super Paper Mario, while originally bemoaned as a stolen Gamecube title (by me yet again!) admittedly works better on the Wii. RE4 is taking some getting used to, but I'm working on it. And Wii Play...well, it has it's good and bad points, but I needed the extra remote anyway.

One thing I really like about the Wii is that for the first time in console progression, a technology hasn't just been tossed out the window. By this I mean, the Gamecube was (and still is) a very powerful and competent game console. I think some people forget that during the fight between PS2, Xbox and Gamecube, the 'cube was considered better than the PS2 in overall performance. Gamecube's biggest problem was that it was #3 in a 3 man race - a position once in, it was never able to get out of. It was good to see the little ATI logo on the outside of the Wii, like a symbol that the Gamecube's technology will live on.

I'm not trying to make up for my previous disdain for the system. What was said, is said. But I'm going to keep playing and enjoying the system. I applaud Nintendo for making an affordable system that has maintained a hold on a proven platform and is centered on games. Microsoft and Sony seem to be busier with making their systems into Trojan horses, to be rolled into your living rooms in the hopes of funneling your media budget into their corporate coffers. Now, if they just make a Wii version of the new Burnout, I might not get wooden wheel marks on the carpet this fall.

Monday, June 11, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #23: Ch-ch-ch-changes...

Alternately, I had considered calling this blog "The Pitfall of PC Gaming", but I liked the song reference better.

Some changes are in the wind for my late night gaming sessions, as I may not have ready access to my PC into the wee hours of the night anymore. At first I thought this was a bad thing, but I've been rolling it over in my aging gray matter and have come up with the thought that it isn't that bad. Why? Because for the most part, when i sit down to game on the PC, I'm more often than not, distracted by that 3000 pound gorilla - the internet. Many nights have been lost in aimless wandering around the endless expanse of words and pictures, while time ticks away and my games go unplayed. Conversely, if I power off my computers early and only have the consoles to play, I *gasp* actually play some games. I can't surf on a PS2, Xbox, or Cube. Even the DS, while having a basic web browser, is only really for playing (Go Pokemon Diamond!). So, while my gaming may have been focused on PC for awhile, I may have to redirect myself to the piles of console games I've built up. Hardly a tough burden to bear.

I did get to Oblivion this week, installing it and seeing where my save games were. Now, however, I've become interested in creating faces that look like celebrities using the editor. Not that it makes the game any different, but maybe a bit more fun.

Lots to do, so I have to cut it short here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #22: Before too much more time passes...

Well, this post isn't as far from the last as it was from the previous (was that in English?), so that's saying something. Again, however, I can only update in bits and pieces since I haven't committed myself to a particular game (yet):
  • We all made 70 in FFXI last week, and have almost all beat Maat. The Black Mage battle is a bitch and our little Mews is taking a pounding. In fact, I almost wanted to beat him up when I saw him at Kaiser this morning. Had to be him; same blue clothes, white beard and blue seaman's cap.
  • I've actually started looking for a Wii. I realized this week that it's only a matter of time before I get one. The price is right, the graphics are good (even if they only look like the 'Cube ones), and there are some games I wouldn't mind playing on it. Hearing about the Mortal Kombat finishing moves made me think there's something for me there after all. Now if I can only get lucky from Amazon again (no sales tax).
  • Have been playing more Pokemon Diamond. Good game, but I do wish they had put more touch screen interaction in it. I added a Nerf Armor to my DS Lite which makes it bigger than the old phatty but much easier on the hands to hold. Plus the neon green is easy to spot.
  • Finished up my hardware upgrades. I now have as much power as I can squeeze out of the P4 system (pretty much doubled my 3DMark score) and I added a 300gb hard drive to the AMD utility system, which is good as I've gotten back into newsgroup lurking. I have to be a little careful how much time I let that suck up. You can download crap forever if you're not careful.

That about covers all I can think of now. As for a particular game, I'm going to try and get Oblivion installed and start playing it. After all, it was that game that prompted me to upgrade my deck in the first place.

Monday, May 21, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #20: Been a long time...

How over a month has passed since my last post, I'll never know. Part of the problem has been rushed days and a lack of access to my favorite blogging spot - namely one of the lesser used labs. I haven't had a fixed plan for these past weeks, so I'm just going to do a quick catch up on various game-wise things I've been doing:

  • If I've had a game this week (and last) it's been Call of Duty. As a shooter, CoD is a blast to play. It has an authentic feel while still keeping a war-movie atmosphere without being too detailed or punishing. The parts I've played as a Russian soldier are my favorites. Fighting in the ruins of Stalingrad is a markedly different vibe than stone corridors with crates and barrels. Like the little bit of CoD2 I played, I realize that my part in a real war would have been that of "causality". The other thing that I get from this game is a certain morale conflict. Often, my inaction in moving forward prompts another of my fellow soldiers to go first and often get shot. Should I have moved first and taken the hit? Should the game dock me points for letting my teammates take lead over me? Don't know.
  • FFXI continues with our main dudes (and dudette) reaching a staggering 69! Last night was a bit of a downer, though. I pulled what I thought was one Tragopan, but it was really 2 creatures, one on top of the other. Worse, we died in front of a bunch of other players, one of which tried to wake up the extra bird Mews put a Sleep on. Not much we could do except come up with better ways to handle a similar situation in the future.
  • I went through my PC games collection, the one I keep in 2 CaseLogic books. I decided to extract just the games I wanted to really play and put them in a smaller case. Well, out of 2 200+ cases, I came up with less than 80 discs. Yes, I have alot of filler in my collection.

Well, invaders at the gates - gotta go do some work.

Monday, April 09, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #14 - The rest of it and Spring Cleaning

Well, not much more to add. Been a busy week. I do want to say that after a few nights of Puzzle Quest my feeling toward the game has gone from mild out and out hate! While I do think the idea of putting a Magic the Gathering style spin on Bejeweled is interesting, I was not ready for the difficulty level. How do you take a nice, laid-back, solitaire style game and turn it into a vehicle of ego crushing on a Godzilla-sized scale? Anyhow, it and a couple of other demos were deleted from my computer last night. Gone as well were Penumbra (ok, but a bit pricey at $20 for the first episode) and Restricted Area (it's future Diablo, I get it). The next to go will probably be C&C3 - just a bit too hardcore RTS for me at this point. I still want to put some time in on Company of Heroes before it goes.

Tomorrow I will probably end up getting the Collector's edition of Oblivion from Mecca. I have a credit (or will have after returning the crappy wireless keyboard I got - no scroll lock key???) and this edition is starting to get harder to get. I'm hoping my upgraded deck will handle it better, plus there are a number of new patches. I knew I would rebuy it at some point, but I thought it would be for the 360. That now seems unlikely. The more I hear about what is going on with the new consoles, the less interested I am. Maybe I'm not the target audience anymore (oh, big shock there, Mr. Pushing Fifty). Well, the upgrades I'm making will get me through this year and then I will get a whole new rig in 2008 - one that will do DirectX 10 when games for it will start looking (we hope) amazing.

Friday, April 06, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #13 (and some of #14): The Strategy of Demos

I missed my usual post time this week because my little hideaway was invaded by other users. Oh well. It's not like there was a lot to talk about. I still haven't committed myself to a particular title. However, I have been playing a few demos, mostly to see if the games were worth getting.

Two of the demos (C&C 3 and Company of Heroes) are RTS games, a genre I've never really played much. That's odd in a way, considering my wargaming background. What I realized is that one of the basic tenants of RTS gaming (building troops from resource points) isn't a facet of wargaming I ever got into. My wargames were more "here are your troops, and there are the reinforcements that you will get if you survive until that turn". I kind of wish I could find a game that was more like that.

I tried the C&C 3 demo as the full game was on sale this week. After trying it, I think I would rename it P&A - for Pester & Annoy. During the first mission (not the tutorial, mind you), I was constantly hearing (or seeing via video pop-ups) about what units to build, where to move them, warnings of incoming troops, new objectives to take, new parts of the map that were opening up, and on and on. The Company of Heroes demo was better and I still have some more to play on it. I think they got me when I was able to bring in an artillery strike on some advancing German troops. Nothing says fun like big explosions and craters!

Also tried a demo for game I hadn't heard of before, Restricted Area. Sort of Diablo meets Blade Runner. An OK game, but not great. Might get it if I find it cheap. The bad part: it's published by the same house that released Psychotoxic. Yuck!

In other news, Microsoft lost my business with the release of the Xbox Elite. Making it black and boosting the HD to 120gb isn't enough to justify $80 more when they left out any other improvements (wireless net, quieter DVD, HD-DVD, better CPU chip). Of course, with that one out, I won't want the old 20gb version unless they drop it to around the price of the core. And all the units are still hundreds of dollars! I figured that getting an Elite and Burnout 5 (when it is released at the expected price of $60) would run about $583! That's just too much. Guess the "next/now generation" of consoles will have to make do without me.

Monday, March 26, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #12: The Upgrade Game

Ok, so this isn't a real game, but it's what I've been playing this week.

My main computer, Wintermute, has hit the age where the best components are now just short of hitting the surplus bins. This means that for about $300, I got a graphics card and CPU that will provide the maximum performance from the system. Any more improvement would require a new system and that is something I don't want to get into right now. (Having to buy for DX10 and Vista would suck. Not buying for them would be foolish.)

You might guess from this that I'm pretty deep into PC gaming again - and you'd be right. Of course, I spent nearly all this week looking for parts and/or finding utilities to analyze my system or run benchmarks (found a great site that evaluates your PC against game requirements - which is what kicked off this upgrade frenzy). I have to remember that shopping on Newegg doesn't constitute gaming.

This week will be spent installing the upgrades (which will be mercifully short I hope), coming up with a subset of games that I really intend to play from my 2 CD album books, and (shocker!) actually playing some stuff.

P.S. After reading last weeks post, I realized I had planned to do Gametap this week. That has been postponed until after John visits so I don't lose a week. And, of course, there's no rush on trying it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #11: The week that wasn't

Plans change. It's just the nature of things. No matter how good our intentions, reality has a bad habit of having its way with us.

Originally, I had planned this week to be my first crack at God of War since the sequel was coming out and I figured chances were good I would buy it. But I first thought that the TV in the bedroom (where most of my console gaming happens) was just not "good enough" for such a triple-A title. Also, it didn't look like anyone, even Mecca, was going to be having any decent incentives to buy GoW2 the first week. It was going to be $49.99; the last of the high priced PS2 games. CC was offering a shirt but frankly, it looked ugly and their track record of finding stuff in the store is not good. So, I started to think that I would kick up one of the collections of arcade games. Retro gaming has gotten big due to the various on-line services that the big 3 are offering. Of course, retro for today's gamers is memory lane for me.

At some point, I found myself drifting toward some PC games. I played a demo of a new survival horror game, Penumbra, and was very impressed with the way you had to use the mouse. It wasn't just point-and-click. You had to move the mouse the way you were moving something in the game - pull it to open a drawer, push it to open a door, click to hold while moving backward to drag something. The demo was very short but held my interest. I'm looking forward to picking this one up. I also played some more Halo on the PC primarily because I can control the vehicles better. (I'm useless on the Xbox version.) I also started the Company of Heroes demo.

This sudden spurt of PC gaming has me wondering where my gaming time is better spent. Back in the "old days" (ie, when NES was king), I was happily playing my Atari 800, ST and original PC. I was a late comer to consoles as computers had the significant edge in graphics and sound. I didn't start getting into consoles until the middle SNES days.

I know the debate between the two worlds, console and PC, is eternal. Consoles provide a cleaner, easier to drop into environment that has lots of exclusives and a more open atmosphere when playing with others. PC gaming has better production values (in general when comparing the same time periods), less corporate interference over content, and a better control scheme for FPS's, strategy, and simulation games. Also, PC gaming is almost completely "future proof" - you can almost always find a way to play an old game on a new system. And there are no clear lines between users. The weekly podcasts I listen to regularly cross-over boundaries - Xbox guys talking about PC games, PC gamers talking about Wii games, etc. There's no one answer - they will always co-exist in some form.

As for me, I think I'll just go with the flow for now and that seems to be taking me down the river of PC games. (It's a little easier to play on my PC at night than the consoles and I certainly have a large stock of games to play on the PC.) This usually lasts until I hit some sort of downer like a game that crashes a lot or something about my computer that makes me waste hours trying to fix it. Not a downer, but a different reason is a visit by my brother that gets me onto the consoles for a week. I've been on this ride long enough to know that making judgements and turning my back on one or the other only leads to me running back to the maligned, hoping I can recover whatever lost treasures I might have sold off in a fit of self righteous commitment. However, I do think I will set some goals and my first one is to try Gametap for a month (costing all of $0.99). I'm really interested to see how well it works and I can try the Sam & Max games as part of that.

A different reason I didn't do as much this week as others is that one of our cats, Randi, had to be euthanized this weekend. It wasn't unexpected and, truthfully, it was necessary. Her kidney problems were just more than we could take and at 17, there wasn't much we could do for her. At least I like to think she left this world without suffering too badly from the disease. Randi, I do thank you for the late night strolls into the computer room, looking for a pet or a scratch behind your twisty ear. You were a people cat and never missed a chance to nuzzle a hand or sit next to me on the sofa. I hope your time with us made you happy.

Monday, March 12, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #10: Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

If I had to sum up my experience with GTA:LCS in one word, I think it would be "underwhelming". It basically played like a GTA clone from a budget software house. It was fun (for a few minutes) to be back in Liberty City but the thing that struck me, other than the bland graphics, was how little the city changed during the time that has passed. Most cities get new buildings or at least renovations during a few years time. From what I saw, the city must have blown its budget on something else

I know this was just a PSP port (how in Zeus's butthole did anyone play this on a handheld screen and not go blind!) so it obviously wasn't going to have the graphic level of the original PS2 game, but I think it should have gone thru the update. Also, and I don't think this is specific to the PS2 version of LCS, I had a lot of problems targeting bad guys with my gun. If they got too close, I would turn around and shoot behind me while getting shot at! One thing which was nice aside from having an overview map, was the short missions, but I don't think it's enough for me to go back to it. I did get the other one, GTA:VCS, which might not be much better, but at least both of these were cheap (under $15 at Mecca on sale) and they are part of the GTA "experience". It makes them necessary additions to The Collection.

In keeping with last week's game choice being based on new releases, I think it maybe time to crack the seal on one of my true triple-A titles - God of War. The sequel comes out this week and if I can get it at Circuit City with the free t-shirt, I might have to drop 50 clams on this one. Ouch! It hurts just typing that. That's a lot of shell fish for one game. Have to see.

Other news: Staying with Hotel Dusk, but still getting stuck at points where I had to do one thing in order to keep going. Like using chalk dust. How was I supposed to know that!...Played a little more Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. You actually have to watch what you are doing in that game. I tried just steaming through, not using special moves, and died pretty quickly. Despite what people have said, it seems fun. Maybe because I haven't played the previous mystery dungeon games....In Vana'diel, our new linkshell has proven very valuable. We now have more AF gear and last Saturday did 5-1 and 5-2! So, our little gang is 67 with a 6 in our Rank column. Very cool.

Monday, March 05, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #9 - Kingdom Hearts - Part 2

Well, I think I've gotten this game out of my system, at least for awhile. I did accomplish my goal of linking up with Goofy and Donald, then getting to a "real" Disney world (Alice in Wonderland) - even if it did take several hours of game time! While novel in design (a full fledged RPG with Disney characters), it pretty much boiled down to a) enter a world and fight some random monsters, b) via talking cutscenes, find out what you need to locate in another area, c) fight lots of random monsters in that area while you are trying to locate the items. Lots more button mashing than I expected. Oh, and let's not forget the Star Fox mini-game ripoff between worlds. Also, why did they not map the camera to the right thumbstick? Must have been before someone came up with that idea. Anyway, I'll keep the last save and might try it again some other time. (If I get to the end of this year with nothing more than memory cards full of started games, that isn't such a bad thing. Getting into these games to the point where they become interesting is sometimes the hardest part.)

This week I think I'll take a cue from a game to be released this week, GTA:VCS, and start playing GTA:LCS. I never have wanted (seriously) to get a PSP and these games were some of the only reasons I would have even have considered it. Interestingly, it was either Sony or Rockstar who proclaimed, rather strongly, that GTA:VCS would NEVER come to another platform. Rrrright. *Cough!*bullshit*Cough!* It really sucks when these guys (and it was probably Sony) ouright lie to us. Sony may have created (hell, DID) create the greatest gaming platform of all time, the PS2, but since then they have been nothing by arrogant bastards to the consumer. While very attached to my 3 PS2's, I don't see that I'll ever get a PS3. They are just too damn expensive! Even if they cut the price in half, that's still $300 - I've never paid that much for a console in my life. Now, I am considering an Xbox360 soon, but even that decision isn't final unless the price drops or I can get a deal with extra hardware (like a controller) or games (note to Fry's: THAT DON'T SUCK!). My ideal package would be a 360 with Oblivion, CoD2, and PGR3. And an extra controller, if I can get it. :)

Monday, February 26, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #8: Kingdom Hearts

Going to be a short post today. Just wanted to say I'm finally into Kingdom Hearts a little farther than I was the first time I played it. My goal for this game is to get to at least one area that is from a Disney movie. After all, that was supposed to be the big draw of this game - Final Fantasy characters interacting with the Little Mermaid, Hercules, etc. So far I've only been on the island and in the town (which is where I stopped the last time). Frankly, I don't think they should have made players wait so long before getting to the Disney stuff. I know there are FF characters in this I should recognize, but I'm just not FF-literate yet. Maybe FFX should be on my list for this year. Anyway, more next week, I hope. (Oh, and I'm still plugging away at Hotel Dusk.)

Monday, February 19, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #7: Ooops...

Well, with time schedules being what they are, this was bound to happen. I wasn't able to play any of my selected game for last week. However, I am going to try again this week to get at least to the point I stopped playing Kingdom Hearts before. I'd really like to get into some of the better parts of this this game (ie, battles in various Disney cartoons). Looks like this franchise is going to continue for some time and I already own the first 3 titles. Time to see if they are worth it. I did get some more time in on Hotel Dusk and even got to a "Game Over" screen for picking a wrong question to ask. The only penalty was going back to before I asked the question.

I'm starting to work up a "hunting list" of games to get for the last gen consoles while I battle with myself about getting a current gen console, namely the 360. Connecting it up to the TV while the DVD is also connected is the biggest hurdle now - the TV only has one set of component inputs. I'm going to look into S-video for the DVD player to see if that will solve the problem.

In Vana'diel, we are all up to level 66 with our big boys - a paltry 9 levels below the cap. It's interesting to see the effect of time on an MMO like FFXI. At any given time, I'd say 1/3 of the players in the game are 75th level, the highest in the game. Almost nothing is happening for lowbies anymore. Does Square just start making it so 75 is the new low level by making harder expansions and monsters? Will they up the level cap, and if they do, will it be like in WoW where the cap was hit by most users in less than a month?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Stocking up for the winter?

I was over at a local Gameworld today, buying an unusual number of games (nine) and I couldn't help but think that the 6 Xbox games I had there represented one of the last times I may buy games for that console. New game releases for it have been reduced to a drying trickle and I've gotten almost all of the older titles I wanted to get. Coupled with BC issues for the 360 and the relative difficulty I have getting to it for gaming means that very soon, I will have all the Xbox games I want to play.

I've been down this road before. The road hasn't been as graphically attractive before, but the end of the SNES, N64 and Dreamcast all pretty much went the same way. When those beloved consoles were unceremoniously chucked out by the industry in favor of new ones, I dug my heels firmly into the past and railed about how much better the old systems were to the new ones. The SNES controller was vastly superior to the N64's "weird, alien" design. The N64's cartridge system was better than any disc based system because it was more durable and faster. The Dreamcast was...ok, so maybe I didn't stand up for that one as much.

And now that 2 of my 3 major console investments (in time and money) are going to the bargain bins, I'm doing the whole hoarding-while-there-are-still-a-few-nuts-on-the-tree thing again. The question is: am I stocking my pantry with wholesome foods for a long hibernation, or am I resisting change and not looking for better digs? Do the platforms of "yesterday" have enough to offer me, to keep me playing, while everyone else thunders along with bloated platforms that are as much about games as they are about getting their foot in your living room and their fingers in your wallet?

What do I really feel about the new systems? Well, the PS3 is overly expensive and has nothing that says "must play". The Wii looks as ridiculous as the day they announced what the controller looked like ("It's a TV remote!"). The 360's games are still expensive, I don't have a HDTV, and I have no real interest in playing on XBL, even if I had the time. True, I will need it when Burnout 5 comes out if it doesn't suck, but there isn't even a date for that. Plus I worry about how reliable the system is, how noisy it is and just where I would put that power brick.

I've said it before that "my next gen console is the DS". That system combined with whatever still comes out on the PS2 may well be my best bet, at least for now. The force is strong with the 360 and I doubt I can hold out much longer, but for now my warren is stacked to the earthen ceiling with much gaming goodness, even if it hails from an age soon to be past.

Monday, February 12, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #6: Time Splitters: Future Perfect

(As I'm not feeling quite "perfect" myself today, this will be a shorter than usual entry.)

I've always been a fan of the Time Splitters games all the way back to the first one which was also the first FPS I played on the PS2. I have to admit that it wasn't without problems. Trying to get used to a dual stick FPS was tough. Every time someone started shooting me, I spun around out of control or was staring into a corner while getting shot in the back. But I stuck with it and managed to get some fun out of it before selling it (the original TS) on eBay. Wasn't a whole lot in it for me to go back to once I got through a few missions.

TS2, however, has always been a major favorite of mine. The combination of smooth, visceral shooting with time travel and wacky scenarios made for a perfect game. My brother and I actually got through the story mode (on easy) in co-op mode. While I owned and played it on the Cube, I got a copy for the Xbox just because I thought it was that good.

I had heard the latest installment, TS:FP, was not quite as good as #2 but I had to give it a try anyway. What I found is that for the most part "they" were right. The game feels a bit too creaky (best word I can think of to describe it). While the story mode, which is driven by very amusing cutscenes, is more entertaining, the combat seems less smooth and harder to manage. I know about the endless criticisms that FPS's should only be played with mouse-and-keyboard, but I really don't remember having this much trouble with TS2. On easy mode (which is what I played TS2 on - never even could get through episode 1 on Normal!), I was dying or getting badly shot up fairly regularly after about the 3rd or 4th mission. Still, I was making progress and the auto-partner system really helps. What I don't know is how it works with co-op. Your "partner" in each level sort of directs you where to go next either through comments and/or heading to the next area. When John comes out next time, we will have to give it a try on the Xbox version I got (yeah, a $9.99 cheapy from Fry's). I also had problems with the Cube controller (again) because of the damn shoulder buttons. When you want to rapidly do something (like swinging a baseball bat), those buttons really slow you down. I may have to revisit my collection and see if there are any shooting games that I should rebuy in PS2 or Xbox versions while I can still get them from Gameworld.

One thing that did impress me was how much was packed into this game. In addition to the story mode, it has arcade mode (various versions of "multi" player), challenges (lots of mini-games), and a whole mapmaker utility. You could almost make a career out of this game!

All in all, I really enjoyed playing TS:FP even with some of the problems (Cube controller, long levels without saves, rough controls). I'm sure I'll get back to it from time to time as it is a very simple game to pick up and play again. Just have to remember to shoot more monkeys!

As this is Valentine's Day week, I'm picking a game that has something to do with hearts: Kingdom Hearts.

Other bits: Our FFXI linkshell goes between being annoying and helpful - sometimes within the same evening. We got some more AF gear and have actually put points on our 65's again (as opposed to dying and taking them off)....Playing more Hotel Dusk when the opportunity presents itself. I had to hit the FAQ's again to get past a block that really should have had a better hint.

Monday, February 05, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #5: Hotel Dusk: Room 215

I rarely get around to playing a game right after I buy it. Gone are the old days when getting a new game was an isolated event that required almost immediate playtime. With huge platform libraries, discount used game prices and other demands on my time, I often just get a game to add it to "The Collection" figuring I'll get around to playing it...someday...soon...I hope. So, it felt a bit odd to be playing a game that the podcasts were still talking about, hearing what they thought about it. And what do I think? Well,...

Visually, HDR215 is stunning in it's style. It's unlike any other game for the DS (or any other platform) that I know of. It's like a moving sketch book or comic and the vertical orientation of the device further enhances that feeling. The developers and publisher need to be congratulated for trying something so different in an era of game clones and media license crapware. But is it a good game? That depends.

I just finished "Chapter 1" at lunch which is supposed to cover 30 minutes of time in the game. That section probably took about 3 to 4 hours to play. Some of this time was spent just reading the interaction text between characters which could have really benefited from some editorial cutting or voice work. Hey, even GBA's Max Payne had speech! When you have to click to continue on everyone's piece of dialogue, a simple exchange takes way longer than it would in, say, a movie. (A couple of people on the podcasts complained about the speed of the text, but I found it fast enough to read, just more to read than I would have liked. Might be an age thing.) The rest of the time I played was spent trying to do things to the environment which usually I couldn't (a sandbox game this isn't). This is (at least so far) a very rigid point-and-click adventure to the point that I had to go back and ask questions of one character before I could get any farther. Insisting that you have additional conversations with an NPC should not be a prereq for continuing the game. Just work it into the script already! At this point, I've only had a few touch screen interactions (solving a jigsaw puzzle, picking things up, bending a paperclip, etc) so the action has been slow. If this were a movie, I would have been snoring a long time ago. I hope it doesn't turn into Hotel Myst. Oh, and a quick note, I don't really think plot quizzes should be used as level bosses.

But, all is not lost. I do find the story interesting, even if I have a bad feeling it will end up in some sort of Twilight Zone-esque twist and there are 9 more chapters to get through. Maybe it will pick up. I had originally planned to do the SMT:N thing again (go for another week) but I think I will pick a new game instead (in this case Timesplitters Future Perfect for the Cube) and keep working on Hotel Dusk when I can't be at a console (ie, lunch, appointments).

Other bits: FFVI for GBA comes out this week. A must buy for Wednesday....The new linkshell we joined has helped some (got two Assault locations and one promy), but we've taken a few casualties. Jury is still out.

Monday, January 29, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #4: SMT: Nocturne - Part 2

While I didn't get the chance to put the kind of time in that I'd hoped to, I'm glad I was able to play a bit more of SMT:N. In addition to leaving the first area (Shinjuku Medical Center), I was able to start adding demons to my party. Yes, it's Pokemon with demons. I should have named my character Ash and the other characters Brock and Misty. Maybe the next time I try it.

I did do the first boss battle (a rather demonic looking manta ray) and got my first glimpse of Dante, a special added bonus over the original Japanese only version. It's a cool game that I can see playing in bits and pieces. I don't think it will be too hard to pick up and play again - the menus are easy to use and the battles are fairly straight forward. That is becoming one of the advantages of this process that I didn't originally plan on - the ability to have a set of games that I can come back to whenever I have the time because I've already gotten into the game and know how to play them. There are still many facets of the game that I don't really grasp (when to use magatama, for example) and I figure that because the game is rated as hard there are certain resources that will need to be hoarded and used sparingly (like ammo in a Resident Evil game). One of the dangers of an RPG, but I'm glad I got into this one, nonetheless.

For next week, I thought that since I started the month with an older title, Ace Combat 04, I would end the month with a brand new one - Hotel Dusk: Room 215. This just came out for the DS and has been getting some very good reviews. Plus this will be my first Game-a-Week handheld title, giving me the ability to play it just before bed (as in just before turning out the lights) and/or at lunch time. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

Other bits: Our little squad of FFXI highbies has hit 65, found itself a new linkshell to join, and completed one of the three crags needed to enter CoP. Been a good week in Vana'diel....I got the Shadowrun cartridge and it does indeed have the right ROM. Booting it up, I forgot how good SNES games looked. That is still an amazing system. I'll have to plan a retro Game-a-Week month at some point. Can't forget our video gaming roots.

Monday, January 22, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #3: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

After last week's fairly easy pick, I thought something more challenging was in order for this week. Also, I've been (dare I say) possessed with the desire to acquire all the games from this series - one that I only really started to notice after the arresting visuals from the latest title, Devil Summoner. (Hey, who can ignore a sexy chick dressed up like a SS vampire?) I figured that I should start to play at least one of these games that I've spent considerably more on than what my usual used or even new games cost. SMT has always been way below the standard retail radar. Considering the gruesome nature of the games and the fact they are VERY Japanese, that's probably a good thing.

As this is a very long game (and very hard from what I've read), I've decided to make this a two week effort. So far I've gotten about an hour and a half into it and I'm still in the first location! The game is done in a cell shaded style with lots of lengthy cut scenes. I haven't gotten lost or stuck yet, but I'm not sure I have a real good understanding of the mechanics of the game. What is interesting is the similarity to Pokemon. You run around with a party of demons (or other creatures - one is a fairy so far) fighting random battles and trying to capture more demons - to add to your party to get the idea. It's not tedious at this point (there is an "auto-fight" button that speeds up the fights considerably), but it may get to be a bit much as the game goes on. It controls nicely, but I do wish the camera was more like other games (ie, FFXI). Anyhow, I'm going to try to get more into it this week and will post final thoughts next Monday. If I can get a copy, I may start up that new DS game, Hotel Dusk, and play it during lunch some this week.

Other bits: Our FFXI band of merry misfits has made it to level 64 (well, the main jobs). It's a bit unsettling the way SquareEnix keeps changing the game. For example, we took some lowbies (my budding BLM) out and were able to fight "toughs" in the La Theine at level 6! When I started playing, you stayed in the Ronafure for at least 8 levels. Going into La Theine that low was suicide even with a PL....Wii's are still selling like mad, but I'm not going for one. The control concept just doesn't fit my kind of gameplay.....I finally got Shadowrun off eBay. Hope this one is actually in the case lol.....Got around to playing Super Mario World on the GBA. I haven't gotten my fingers working on the buttons as well as they did when I played the SNES one all those years ago. I'm hoping I can retrain them.

Monday, January 15, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #2: SpyHunter

Ok, so I admit it, this was a bit of a softball as games go. But I was a big fan of the original arcade game and this one was always on my "I hope I play it someday" list. However, instead of a gameplay experience, I got more of an experience in comparative game qualities over different platforms. I started playing the Gamecube version and while not awful, I really thought the cut scenes could have been of a better quality; they were pixelated and blotchy. Checking the game on Gamespot, I found the Cube version to be 1.1 points lower than the PS2 version (which was released first), mostly because the graphics were so much worse. So, I went to Gamestop and picked up the PS2 version for a cheap $6 (gotta love Gamestop!) and low and behold, the graphics were MUCH better. And not just the cut scenes, but the gameplay too. I also liked playing it on the PS2 because of the controller differences. (One thing I've never liked about my beloved Cube is the large shoulder buttons on the controller - they're great for lock-on but suck for things like firing guns and accelerators in vehicles).

This problem, of one version of a multi-platform game being so much better or worse than another, is a constant concern for me. In general I've always figured the Cube and Xbox versions of any game would be superior, even if just a little, to the same game on PS2. Such is not always the case. I may have to look deeper into my collection and see if I've got the best versions of titles that appear on more than one platform (within reason, of course). Stocks of what are now "last generation" games are at their highest point as people clear out game collections to build up credit for 360's, PS3's, and Wii's. Eventually that flood will trickle out and dry up. I don't want to be caught in that drought. My game console plans don't include buying any new hardware any time soon.

I didn't do much more than play the tutorial levels in both and the first level in the Cube version, but this is a good pick up and play type of game (a bit hard though). The levels seem to only last about 10 minutes or less, and it's a good quick shoot'em up. I'll probably pop this one in now and again to see if I can get anywhere with it. In general, it's about as hard as the old arcade game - I loved it, but it kicked my ass regularly.

This week I'm going to jump into (or at least sample) a game from a series that has had me searching eBay and Gamestops like a possessed lunatic - Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.

Monday, January 08, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #1: Ace Combat 04

The title of these posts seems a bit unwieldy, but it will do for now. So this was my first game to work on for a week and for the most part it went well - even though I wasn't (BAD flu). If this self-imposed exercise gives me a chance to experience games that would otherwise just sit on the shelf, it's a good thing.

I found Ace Combat 04 (it's "04" because the missions take place in, yeah) to be like two games in one. The first is an incredible fighting flight sim; very easy to play (limited number of buttons to remember), awesome graphics for the PS2, arcade-like but with a touch of realism (the tactical summary fly throughs during the point summary are probably lost on most people). The other is an anime style story that plays out in bits between the missions. The game is about a fictious war in a fictious land, very similar to the war in "Howl's Moving Castle", except with modern weapons instead of dark fantasy ones. I didn't realize that this very USA military looking game was very Japanese. The singing and flying doves at the beginning were a bit of a shock! It was also a little unsettling to see that the "enemy" was portrayed with US soldiers and equipment. Were they trying to refight the end of WWII in the modern day? Have to look into that some in the online reviews. I also wonder what the original Japanese music sounded like. Oh, to be able to play imports. :P

I may try to play more of this, weekly commitments allowing. Have to see how I get back at Yellow 13! For this week: Spyhunter on the Cube.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy Gnu Year '07

Time has passed, weeks became months and here we are in 2007.

Out of curiosity, I looked back at my first January 2006 post. My first thought is that I have finally stopped the hobby flipping that I used to do. Video gaming has been my sole past time for over a year now. Nice to buckle down and concentrate on something at the chipper age of 45.

In this first 2006 post I had given my thoughts on Obscure and the new consoles (the then just released 360 and the to be released PS3 and "Revolution"). Aside from the name change, not too much has changed over a years time - stores still carry the old console games along side the new ones. By this time next year that will undoubtedly change. I was more positive on the PS3 back then, but that was before the $600 price tag and lack of good games. As for the 360, not much has really changed in my view of it other than the games I want to play on it and the thought that going first was probably a good idea after all. What I missed altogether was the crushing strength of the DS. Well, back then I didn't even own one.

As 2007 opens, I have to think what it will bring. PS3 (and Sony) will have a tough time of it, I think. The system is just too expensive and it's not like games are pouring out. The 360 will get a refit this year that I believe will make it cheaper and more intergrated, but I still won't buy it til the next Burnout is released. I hope that by next year it will be nearly 100% BC. And Nin doesn't really have to worry about the Wii - even if it flops, they can live off the money DS Lite is making. But I doubt the Wii will fail as it has become the media darling this holiday season. I don't know if I will get one or not yet, but I can't say I'm really that interested. The control scheme just doesn't work for the games I play. Of course, it can always be a Cube replacement.

As for my "game plan" for 2007, I have decided to play one new (to me) game every week. Play starts Monday and finishes Sunday with a review post on the next Monday. During that week I will pick the next week's game. (I had thought about random, triple-A titles only, by release date, etc. but none of them seemed worth the time to work out.) I got off to a slow start this week as I was sick last night, but I have picked Ace Combat 4 as my first game. I haven't played a flight sim in a long time and never (that I can remember) on the PS2. I will play other games during this year, but at least this will help me work through my collection some.

Little notes: I played some of Call of Cthulhu and other than being very dark (as in hard to see) it's a good adventure game so far. A bit slow though...Not too much FFXI going on as Rath was in England and not feeling well to boot... Traded some crap games from the collection into Gameworld, instead of wasting time and money on eBay sales, to get a collector's copy of FFXII...Finally decided to go with the Cube version of Zelda and started playing this weekend. Great, but it's like OoT with better graphics. Not a big step up in design, but enjoyable...Found the Shin Megami Tensei series and am trying to get all the games...Gave up on playing through Fable:TLC. Too much to redo that I just don't want to do again to get to new stuff...Also had to give up on Still Life. Game was like CSI:Myst. Plot was interesting, but I couldn't do the puzzles without a cheat sheet and playing a game like that is no fun.