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Malik (1/3/06)  

Welcome back. This is the first official post for 2006, and it's great to be back from vacation...or, at least, I would like to say that. The truth is that I could use some more time off (particularly from my day job), but since that isn't going to happen, I'll try to remain as upbeat as possible on this. 

Anyway, at the end of 2005, I made some promises of big things coming up and some changes happening. First off, since it's always fun to start a new year with something new, I am happy to present "World of WoW" by Raven. While I'm not sure on how much we'll see Raven's voice in the daily posts, reviews, or whatever, we'll probably be seeing a good deal of World of WoW (hence the nifty new World of WoW button on the navigation menu). Anyway, expect another episode very soon. 

Well, the second big change will not be too noticeable to all of you, but I'll be moving around the 21st of January (with an early push starting on the 14th). What does this mean? Maybe nothing. However, it might mean that, depending on how Comcast plays ball with me, that the site will not be updated for a few days starting on the 23rd. We'll see what happens, but consider this a heads up warning that things may go silly with any regular posts. 

I think that's enough business for today. I've started playing a good deal of Legend of Heroes (PSP). If you didn't hear about this game, it's not too big of a surprise, considering it's one of the only two real RPGs available in the US for the PSP right now. Also, I don't count Untold Legends as anymore of an RPG than I couldn't the original Gauntlet as an RPG. Also, LoH is a new addition to a longstanding Japanese series of RPGs that is made by the same people as those who made Ys. That is, on it's own, usually a great sign. 

However, what really helps LoH is the fact that it's an old-school RPG. It doesn't have any fancy action based battle system, not constant break in the action to show off some CGI cut scene, no horrible voice acting (since voice acting is "required" in modern RPGs), no gimmicks, nothing overly innovative...just good old RPG bliss. In other words, it's no surprise that this game has been taking it's fair share of bumps from reviews. I just have to say that this type of treatment in a review is about as uncalled for as how GTA:LCS was called a full fledged title

For one thing, LoH is not all the original in terms of the technology employed by the designers. It is pretty standard issue in that regard. However, if it wasn't for Square having decided that all RPGs needed some forced innovation when they made their PSX FF games, then we would not have anyone called a lack of innovation a bad thing. As for this game not being "exciting"'s an RPG. To call it bad for being unexciting makes me think of the guy who sat behind me as I watched Syriana last night...who kept sighing every minute or two because he obviously found the movie "unexciting". In other words, if you don't like RPGs, then you'll probably find RPGs to be unexciting...and if you like them, then you'll rarely find a use for such an out of place term like "excitement". Damn, when I read a book, there is no background music, but I can't be fair and still say "the background music of this book was weak and uninspired". 

Anyway, enough of my random rants. LoH is one hell of a fun RPG, if you like real RPGs. In particular, if you like the original Lunar games, then this will feel even more familiar. The main characters all have unique personalities (and there are a fair number of characters in this game), and the battle uses a system just like Lunar and Grandia both employed (with a small map and your people must move to engage enemies unless they have ranged abilities). In fact, this game reminds me greatly of what the recent Lunar games should have been (rather than how Lunar DS turned out). 

The only poor side of LoH, so far, is either something that will kill the game for you, or it will remind you of the 1990's. The translation job was obviously done by a computer (or a dude with no knowledge of English, but had a Japanese to English dictionary). Quite honestly, you can tell what the characters mean to say and you can tell what emotions they mean to convey. The only thing you may have trouble with are a few of the word choices, despite how you'll still get the meaning of the dialogue. In fact, it's a step above, still, from the translation jobs we got with some of the early Square RPGs (like FF4 and 6) and there's far more believable emotion than many recent Square Enix RPGs. In fact, unless you are either not in the mood for an RPG, or if you simply are a perfectionist who needs all dialogue perfectly elaborated, there is nothing to complain about with this game. It's a solid RPG with a slightly unique plot (which says it's more unique than most other RPGs in this age of all plot devices having been ran into the ground) and a lot of fun options and quests to play with. 

Also, if you're wondering about how IGN seemed to imply how this game could not be played on the go...well, it can just as well as any other PSP game. In fact, you can a little better. For one, you can save at any time, and for another, the PSP has a sleep feature for all titles. You simply hit the power button quickly and then walk away. It will be waiting for your return. At least, unlike with GTA:LCS, since this is not action based, you don't need to worry about finding a suitable location or time to put the PSP to sleep (try doing that while doing a drive-by on GTA and then resume the's not pretty). Sorry, but I needed to say that. The sleep feature is the only good feature I can really see on the PSP, and I won't have people talk shit about the only good game I've played on this thing while ignoring this one and only good feature. 

Anyway, check out Raven's World of WoW, and expect more to show up quite soon. 


Malik (1/4/06)  

To keep the trend of a new year and new stuff, Raven has a new issue of his web-comic, World of WoW

It's interesting to see the ways that different companies handle the next-generation landscape when it's laid out in front of them. While Microsoft gave a limited set of backwards compatible games from the XBox that work on the 360, and while Sony is being tight lipped about a console that should have some raw data by now (assuming their speculated Spring release was not a complete load of bull shit...which could very well be the case), Nintendo is taking some nice moves. 

Nintendo already announced that GCN titles will work on the Revolution and that all older games will be downloadable and work on the Revolution via emulators built into the new console, there are some interesting rumors about the next Zelda title for the GCN. Apparently, part of the delay in releasing this game (which would have been a must-have for the holidays, assuming Nintendo stuck to their original release timetable) may be related to giving some bonus features for when it's put in a Revolution. If these rumors are true, and to what extent there is bonus materials, awaits to be seen. However, if this is true, I think Nintendo may be showing just how much they are willing to break from the norm for their next console. While Microsoft utilized bonus features on the 360 for a couple games (Halo 1 and 2), but kept some recent hit games from the backwards compatibility list (like Burnout 3 and Burnout: Revenge), Nintendo is giving all games, and giving extra features. 

While backwards compatibility is only so important (it's nice during the first year of a console, when new games are sparse), it definitely is not going to be anything like the "make or break" feature on a new system. However, at least Nintendo is looking enough at the future to ensure some things are done correctly for those turbulent first months. 

On the note of next-gen, and for all of your conspiracy theorists out there, there's a little more insight into the 360. I really don't think this type of crap is news, and I don't think that people should be hanging on every word about the 360 like it's some secret message that will unlock this ultimate secret message from Microsoft about the end of the world. 

True, something might have happened to the 360 supply lines to cause such a lack of systems. However, at the same time, 1.3 million systems released in 40 days is pretty damned impressive, if you ask me. On top of that, it had been announced before that there were manufacturing issues at hand. I believe it was some issue with one of the ship makers, and when one single chip is limited, it will equal to the whole damned package being limited. 

For the people who are so obsessed with the secrets of why the 360 is limited...I just have to say it's time to start using your brains and not just jumping on this lame conspiracy crap. Obviously, Microsoft would not limit their supply this intentionally to build demand when there is such a strong demand already present (seen by pre-order sales at EB, Gamestop, etc). So, if the demand is in place, the only logical conclusion is that there is a supply issue. Beyond that, this is not some secret deal between Microsoft and eBay (one of my favorite theories for the rank of most inane). If you have a 360 and want one, cool. If you don't have one, but you want one, just relax and it'll come before the true second generation games. If you don't want one and don't have one, but you keep adding fuel to this fire, you just need to shut up. Also, if you're saying crap about how this is "teh lamzorest launch teh evar"'s wasn't, it won't be, and it will never be. All launches rank up there about equal in terms of how bad they are. The PS3 will launch poorly (maybe for the same reasons and maybe for other reasons), the PS2 launched poorly, the Revolution will launch poorly, the PSP launched like a brick...the list goes on and on. 

I hate to even make the 360 launch news on this post. It is no longer news, and it's no longer news worthy. It's time for us to all, collectively, move on. Unless some new and interesting (as in, extra stupid) conspiracy or news comes along, this is the last you'll hear on this site about the 360 launch. It's done. 


Malik (1/5/06)  

Microsoft has taken a few initiatives with their CES showings this year. Beyond the simple fact that Windows Vista is making a strong presence (like that's a surprise to anyone), there is some interesting and good 360 news at CES. 

For one, Microsoft is working on the whole conspiracy to end the world by dooming mankind to only a limited supply of 360s...or whatever the latest bullshit is in this area (I honestly am sick of how I said I wouldn't touch it anymore unless there's real news...). They have enlisted another manufacturer to help in producing more consoles. This is the only news worthy of reporting in this subject, and it's coming about. Hopefully, once this settles down, it will be the final time we ever have to talk about this damned subject. 

Beyond that, there's some great news for Live Arcade. Namely, we can expect more than ancient arcade ports and new mini-games. Apparently, Street Fighter 2 will be a downloadable game for Arcade sometime this year. With this type of news, it's great to see that the Arcade service is going to be more than just a way to draw in the casual gamer; it will be a nice tool for the hardcore gamers and the old-school gamers who want more than just full $50-$60 games. 

Last of all, there's the news I've been dreading for a long time. The solid-must-have peripherals are on their way. Namely, sometime between now and the end of the year, one should expect an external HD-DVD drive for the 360. Hopefully, this will only be Microsoft's way to bring HD-DVD movies to the masses. If they aim to have developers make games for this thing, I think it's, at long last, a new chance for the younger gamers to see the folly of Sega. Namely, this peripheral, if it sells around the expected price of about $200 or so, will be overlooked by most gamers and will become a major loss for Microsoft and the few developers who make games for it. It's Sega CD and Sega's 32-X all over again. 

I have an important reason why I'm against this shit. While Sega needed and used the greater storage capacity of CDs in the Sega CD, it is still a high price to ask consumers to pay for playing games on a system they already own. It's like asking for a $200+ fee to play the better games for a console. Plus, while HD-DVDs will hold more data than DVDs, the DVD is a format that is easy to handle excess data on (it's called swapping disks...just like every optical media based console has used in the past). 

However, if this is just Microsoft's way to bring the HD-DVD movie format to the masses, this could be a good idea. After all, while Sony will give Blu-Ray to the masses for movies and games, this will help to ensure a longer lasting battle for supremacy...which will probably end ugly for one side...and will result in thousands of dollars lost by a good deal of consumers. At least by making the HD-DVD drive as a peripheral, it might lower the cost considerably compared to a stand-alone HD-DVD player (giving this format one potential edge). 

If you thought you detected my favoritism for HD-DVD over Blu-Ray, you are right. Considering that Blu-Ray players and disks are expected to cost considerably more than HD-DVD players and disks, and that Sony ("the masters of disaster") are leading the charge, Blu-Ray already has a few strikes against it in my book. Also, HD-DVD is promising a lot more bang for the buck (like the idea of storing and streaming content from HD-DVD disks using a hard drive). True, I may have to change my disk during a movie, but once a Peter Jackson film (like King Kong or any of the LotR trilogy) hits the next gen movie format, you'll be changing disks no matter what the movie is stored on. 

At least Blu-Ray does offer one good thing. I feel like I must say this, otherwise I'd just be a damned Toshiba/Microsoft fanboy (while I do love Toshiba for making one hell of a good HD-TV set). Blu-Ray people are thinking of shuffling the region coding for some countries. Namely, North America will not no longer stand alone. It's being thought that most of Asia and most of America (North and South) will all share a region (Region 1). Basically, this means that importing of movies will become a lot less least until the region-free players come along (and then it will be trouble-free). However, for some sick reason, Europe will be with Africa in a separate region (2), and China and Russia will make a third region (3). In the end, this still means that most of the movies I import will still be on separate regions from my own. Considering that (legitimate) DVD imports from China and Hong Kong, both of which like to include English subtitles on many movies, are my main form of purchased movie, this new shuffling still won't mean much to people with similar tastes for movies. Also, a large amount of the most expensive movie prices will be bundled into region 1 (Japan and the US charge more for movies than a lot of other countries after a movie finally sees a worldwide release). 

Also, if the proposed first wave of Blu-Ray movies is any indication, I think I'd be happy to wait and see what HD-DVD offers before I'd consider tossing my chips in with Sony. I can only take so much of The Fifth Element, XXX, Hitch, Resident Evil, A Knight's Tale, The Punisher, Stealth, and SWAT. Nothing like the movie studios bringing out their "best" to rise to the occasion. What? No Armageddon? 


Malik (1/6/06)  

Good news for people who like bad games. Take Two will be porting GTA:LCS to the PS2. I really wish this was good news, but it will become obvious in no time when it's on the bigger screen that GTA:LCS is just not a good game. On a portable system, one could always argue that the limited depth to missions, the poor handling, and the other limitations were just caused by the PSP being a tricky system to make a GTA-style game for. However, if this is a direct port (no additional content or missions), it will become obvious in about 5 minutes that this is nowhere near the same caliber as GTA3, VC, or SA. This, in fact, is a steaming pile of wasted programming. 

Also, I have to wonder what will be the case with the price. Assuming no new content, as we going to see the same treatment as GTA:SA being ported to the XBox and PC almost a year after the PS2 release? In other words, since it is a $50 PSP game, will it still be a $50 PS2 game? If so, I have some advice for you GTA fans without PSPs (you are good people who I wish I could consider myself one of...damned PSP); just play GTA3 again and enjoy what that game offered. 

Also, that same article handled the issue that sometime in the future, the next PSP GTA game is still being worked on and will be released. The only new information on this is that it's a completely "all-new property." I can't say what this means, and I don't think anyone outside of Take Two can. However, I can say that if the game is the same toned down and shallow experience that GTA:LCS gave us...I would like to say it'll fail, but GTA:LCS was empty and unfulfilling and it still sold just off of fanboy support. I do know, however, that I will probably sit this one out (plus it doesn't help that my PSP is already teh broken and I have no intention of replacing the damned thing or getting it fixed). 

At least there is some good news; Peter Moore has finally elaborated on the external HD-DVD drive for the 360. It will not be used for games, and will only serve as a movie player. This means we will not be forced to see another piece of shit like the Sega CD come in and mess up something that is good as it stands. It also means that this drive, which will probably cost a pretty penny, will not force us geeks to dig deep and pay PS3 style prices for a fully functional 360. 

Since it'll probably take a few years to see which side wins this (beta or VHS...I mean HD-DVD or Blu-ray), it means that the smart move is to just ignore the 360 HD-DVD drive and look away from the pointless carnage. In the end, DVDs will suit us all (or at least myself) just fine until the dust settles and we see if price or capacity wins in the end. Since I have no intention of paying quadruple digits for a player, I just hope it's price that wins out in the end. 

Also, the 360 version of FFXI is about to start betas...which are supposedly going to be open to "Official XBox Magazine" subscribers. Meanwhile, if you live in Japan, you get in the beta with your 360. It's nice to see that difference. It's all about peddling wares. 

Before you Square fanboys get too excited, it might be worth noting that the FFXI beta has not exactly been a dream come true for all with the Japanese version. IGN covered this beta shortly after the 360 launched in Japan, and it sounds like a lot of hard work to get such an old and dated MMORPG working on a system that's better off without it. As a hint, the game is old, it feels like a PS2 port, it uses an interface that makes one cringe, and it will take you the better part of a day to get the damned thing to even run. Best of all, it will take up about half of the space that's free on your, don't plan to download a lot of movie trailers, game demos, and such off of Live if you aim to play this game. 


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