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.