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Archive for October, 2009

Controller Lust: Hori builds something hideous; excellent

Posted by nfinit on October 31, 2009

Again with the freakin’ controllers!  Only this time, it’s something that’s actually useful:

The best thing about the Play Asia watermark is that it looks like it's molesting every product in the catalog, which is accurate to both Japanese and gaming cultures.

From what I can recall, this is the first attempt someone’s made at putting six face buttons on the front of a modern dual-analog stick since the first Xbox controller, and looking at Hori’s attempt you can see why– It’s quite frankly ugly and Hori’s continued insane devotion toward superfluous switches and turbo buttons isn’t helping matters.  They’re really best for enthusiast use, as attempts to make a mass market dual-analog with six buttons results in, well…

Coming soon a Bad Controllers update near you!

Which was not sexy times.

Apart from making stuff that  looks like it fell off a truck in downtown Hong Kong, Hori’s probably the most well-respected 3rd party controller manufacturer in terms of sheer quality– they’re arcade guys; they know what they’re doing.  So this may well wind up being the absolute best enthusiast pad for the 360 that’ll ever be made, provided you can overlook the lack of wireless.


Posted in Bald-faced materalistic lust | Leave a Comment »

Bad Controllers– The Atari 5200

Posted by nfinit on October 30, 2009

I want you to do something for me– chances are if you’re reading this you’re the type of person that keeps a gamepad handy.  I want you to take that gamepad and play around with the thumbstick.  It’ll look something like this:

Note: Not to be considered an endorsement of the Gamecube or it's awful controller

Go ahead, thumb it for a bit.  It’s alright, it likes to be thumbed.  Okay, you notice how the thumbstick wants to snap back to the center?  Now, you probably don’t think about this sort of thing (because you’re not insane and obsessed with controller design) but it might strike you that that ability to snap back to center looks pretty important.  I mean, it’d suck if you had to manually move the thumbstick back to the center every time you wanted to, say, keep your guy from moving off the side of the screen.   That’d be an awful way to design a controller, right?  I mean, it’d probably be the very first thing you made sure your controller could do properly, or at least near the top of the list along with “make sure the innards of the controller aren’t prone to random vaporization” or “don’t put the reset button on top of the controller itself


I mean, you and I know all that, and we’re not even paid to design gamepads.  We’re just strangers on the internet didddling thumbsticks.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present you with the 5200 joystick.
the fucking stick doesn’t center
You push the stick to the right, it just sorta…stays there.  Admittedly, the rubber boot around the joystick makes a valiant, albeit doomed effort at pulling the stick to center, but it’s in no way a subsitute for springs, of which Atari was too cheap to build into the joystick.  You want to move it to the center, you have to manually move the stick vaguely toward the center and hope you have it in the right position.  Now this may be fine for certain applications.  Let’s say you somehow managed to put Windows 95 on your 5200 and thus were in need of mouse.  While you were there you could use it to play Mech Warrior.  Pac-Man?  Not so much.

The 5200 being a product of the pre-Crash arcade industry, pretty much everything in it’s catalog was based in some way off Pac-Man.  Dig Dug?  Underground Pac-Man.  Mario Brothers?  Italian Pac-Man.  Mrs Pac-Man?  Female Pac-Man.  Point is, the controller wasn’t just deeply flawed,  it proved incompatible with almost every game  ever released for the system.

The main reason this happened was so Atari could advertise that the 5200 had 360 degrees of movement.  Apparently how many directions your controller could point to was a huge issue for videogame marketing departments in the early 80’s– The Intellivision touted 16 points of contact vs the 2600’s paltry eight– Atari decided end the argument and implemented full analog control for the 5200.

And that’d have been fine if Atari was somehow expecting a slew of Missile Command and Centipede-like games, where the player controls a cursor.  Only there was only ever those two, and no reason to think there would ever be a huge demand for games of that nature, and even if there did prove to be an explosion of cursor-controlled games, gamers would be far better served using the only pheriphrial Atari would go on to release for the 5200:

Doubles as a bowling ball cleaner when not used to play Missile Command

The above magnificent bastard, who’s very existence instantly invalidated the reason for the 5200’s controller to exist in the first place.  Atari released a gimped controller that was only serivcable for two games in the console’s entire lifespan and then released a controller specifically built around those two games.

Anything else about this controller sounds petty in comparison, but as long as we’re here anyway–  the construction quality stinks; build tolerances were purposefully made low as to prevent the stick from locking up; as a result the controller feels like it’s on the verge of breaking apart in your hands.  As I alluded to previously the button contacts  desentigrate.  That’s not hyperbole, they quite literally disappear over time; and not in the metaphysical “the universe is prone to entropy” sort of way, but the “you’ve owned the controller for a month and the contacts have oxidized into dust” sort of way.  Finally, for reasons that remain unclear Atari engineers saw fit to put a Reset button on the controller itself, right beside the Pause button.

I want you to think about that for a while.  The Reset button rests beside the Pause button.  No one says anything about this simply because the rest of the controller is such a magnificent train wreck.  It’s like ATF agents were combing through the smoldering remains of the Branch Davidian complex and found out David Koresh had been selling bootleg shota hentai the entire time.

The 5200 controller was such a stunning failure that it may have been the single greatest determining factor in the demise of the system itself, or at least made it exponentially more difficult to gain traction ahead of the Crash of ’84.  Not that the 5200 didn’t have problems outside of the controller, of course.  Atari was the very first system to fall victim to a shortsighted lack of backward compatibility with it’s predecessor, a mistake Atari would correct in the 7800–but by then it was 1986 and no one cared about the 2600 or Atari.

You might ask exactly what the hell was going on in Sunnyvale, California that no one thought that any of this was a bad idea– After all, Atari wasn’t exactly operating out of Nolan Bushnell’s garage anymore.  By 1982 Atari was the fastest growing business in the history of American business– billions of dollars and thousands of jobs depended on every decision this company made.  So how could the smartest, fastest, most sophisticated corporation of it’s time allow this to happen?

There’s something we need to keep in mind when presented with America’s obvious insanity during the 1980’s, whether it be Macho Man Randy Savage, the inexplicable popularity of Phil Collins or The McDLT, and it’s this:

Whether it was a side-effect of cold war paranoia or a natural extension of the excesses of the 70’s or just a lot of rich people with nothing better to do with their money than fuck up their sinus cavity, if you were rich and powerful in the 80’s you were doing massive amounts of sweet, sweet Columbian blow.  Rock stars were doing it, the entirety of Major League Baseball was doing it, apparently every single person with any authority whatsoever inside Atari hq was just eyeball deep in the stuff.

Posted in Bad Controllers | 1 Comment »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 10-28-09

Posted by nfinit on October 28, 2009

Ah, now this week looks more like October.  Two high-budget system exclusives release sometime before Wednesday, as well as the intriguing, albeit problematic, DJ Hero, including my own early pick for GOTY in Forza 3.  Even the DS gets in on the quality gaming bandwagon.  This week is so good for gaming it’s enough to make you feel bad for someone trying to release something like, say–

Fairytale Fights

It’s Final Fight, it’s bloody, it’s full of adorable fairytale characters being cut limb to limb with dynamic real-time cleaving action, it’s made by crazy Norwegians, you skate on pools of blood and you can toss your friends inside spike-studded grist mills.  In fact I can’t think of anything bad to say about this game oh wait

Look, I want to love this game, really I do, but when you’re being asked to pay sixty bucks for a four-player beat-em-up you have to question what this experience brings to the table that something like Castle Crashers isn’t already doing, and I dunno– I just can’t see that.  Maybe if you’re just in love with the art style– and to be honest, that’s perfectly understandable– it’s a little easier to talk yourself into, but there’s a lot of other options out there that are cheaper and usually not even sold on disc.

Maybe that’s not entirely fair, maybe something like this can’t reasonably be produced and sold for something less than MSRP.  But value per dollar something games reviewers rarely take into account.  It’s definitely on the list of games I’ll look for during the next Gamestop “buy two get one used” sale, though.  I know that’s screwing PlayLogic over, but hey.  I don’t get paid to subsidize outdated business models.

**Forza Motorsport 3

Not to be the sort of guy that goes around saying IT’S NOT MEANT FOR YOU, but as a word of warning, if you’re not into super-dry console racing sims that double as car porn, well.  This is not meant for you.  If your idea of the perfect racing game is Burnout, then skip to the next section.  Go away.  You’re gonna hate FM3.  Go play some Project Gotham or something.

Meanwhile, if you’ve ever willingly laid down your hard earned gaming dollar for a Gran Turismo game and stayed awake into the wee hours of a Saturday morning mastering the corkscrew at Laguna Seca in a Viper GTS, then this game isn’t just Meant For You, it’s gonna be the best fucking game ever, or at least near enough so until we see more about Gran Turismo 5.  In fact, I dunno why you’re reading this either, the only question you’ve ever had about Forza 3 is which store has the best pre-order bonus (hint, it’s Amazon, but that’s too late now).

But if you’ve ever found yourself trying to talk yourself into buying a Gran Turismo game, then yeah.  You’re probably going to like this. I’ve spoken at lenght about this already , but basically Forza has evolved into the Rock Band to GT’s Guitar Hero– it’s more accessable, hasn’t accumulated as much design cruft (no liscenses!) and features a No-Fail mode in a penalty free, use-whenever-you-like rewind button.  If you were ever on the fence about delving into console racing sims, this is the game for you. Also, you get to do shit like this:

As you might’ve discerned, I’m passionate for FM3 as it takes my favorite genre and attempts to open it up to a wider audience.  I don’t know if that’ll be enough to save it from the same fat as shmups and arcade fighters, but it’s gotta be better than the direction we’ve been going in every single Gran Turismo release up until now.

**DJ Hero

If there’s anything we’ve learned about music genre over the past year it’s that if you’re unsure of buying a game you can wait six months and Best Buy will basically pay you to get rid of the stupid box.  So if you’re on the fence about dropping $120 on an unproven concept, maybe it’d be a good idea to wait.  That said, it’s probably a good game, Giant Bomb walked away enamored by the concept– Just be aware that if you pay full MSRP for this thing you’re re-inforcing all the bad behavior the games industry is guilty of right now, as well as giving this guy:

Even more of a reason to be a complete dick to all the properties he owns.  Sure, it’s not fair to be asked to take the ethical implcations of a multibillion dollar corporation into account when spending your mass-entertainment dollar– I mean, all these guys are evil to some degree or another– but if you buy this thing and World of Warcraft 2 is a console exclusive requiring a $120 motion sensitive wizard staff pheriphrial, I’m blaming you.

**Tekken 6

Hey, it’s Tekken!  I remember Tekken!  More importantly, I remember the last time I cared about Tekken:

That was ten years ago!  I wonder what a decade’s worth of development in game design as done for Tek–

Yup, that’s some Tekken alright.

To put this in perspective, we’ve been through three US presidents, a complete console generation (and halves of two other gens) and Street Fighter went from this:

to this:

All I’m asking for is some persepective.

(tekken is also one of those fighting game series where i”m much more interested in playing single-player games based on the characters instead of Tekken itself.  I mean, I would play five games based on playing as a time-travelling clockwork brigand/ninja.  Unfortunately Namco made Death By Degrees instead.  So thanks a lot for that, guys.)

**Atelier Annie Alchemists of Sera Island

Sometimes the DS gets a hardcore obscure Japanese RPG, and sometimes the DS gets a hardcore obscure Japanese RPG that’s  so hardcore and so obscure and so Japanese the publisher just throws up it’s hands and refuses to record English voices.  Atlier Annie is one of those.

Yup.  Atelier Annie.  It’s One of Those.

**Rachet and Clank: A Crack in time

Oh hey a PS3 exclusive sequel to one of their flagship PS2 series.  I guess I should say something about that.


Okay, thing is, I never played a Ratchet and Clank, nor a Jak and Daxter nor a Sly Cooper– thing was, there were so many mascot 3d platformers for the PS2 that I was overwhelmed and wound up never getting any of them.  On the other hand, everyone’s saying this is the best R&C made, so hey.  Maybe you should get that.

(Tangental:  Nintendo made it’s bones on the N64 by producing mascot-driven platformers.  Sony answers one console generation later with three mascot platformer series.  The XB1 made it’s name off Halo.  The PS3 has at least two Halo-like FPS series and would have had a third had Haze not bombed.  So what can we expect for PS4?  Waggle sports games out the ass.)

**Grand Theft Auto:  Episodes from Liberty City

Hey, you got a 360?  You got Grand Theft Auto 4?  Did you get Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony yet?  Well why the hell not, asshole?  No net connection?  How are you viewing this?  Nevermind!  Just buy this disc!

*Nerf N-Strike Elite with Scope

I dunno if kids nowadays have any idea how great their toys are.  Back in my day we were the shit if we owned some Captain Power stuff, and that was just holding a toy spaceship at the TV while watching a VHS tape.  Now kids get to shoot Nerf Guns at their TVs while playing a Wii Game.  On the bright side, at least Generation X didn’t have to deal with Jenny McCarthy talking out parents out of getting vaccinated for measles, so I guess it works out.

*Mytran Wars

It’s hard to have confidence in a game who’s development house went out of business 18 months prior to that game’s release.  PSP Go owners who may have been interested in a turn-based mecha strat game are SoL, as this thing is disc only.

*Tinkerbell: The Lost Treasure

must make it through update without mentioning creepy fairy fetish must make it through update without mentioning creepy fairy fetish must make it through update without mentioning creepy fairy fetish oh god no!


*Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter

As much hype as Scribblenauts has recieved, it’s odd to see that this followup to 5th Cell’s breakout DS title has almost completely gone unnoticed.  It should be noted that the Wii version is produced by Planet Moon, which is most of what used to be Shiny Entertainment as is most recently known for Battle of the Bands– which, if you know anything about Battle of the Bands, you’ll be happy to know the DS game is still being done by 5th Cell.

‘course, it remains to be seen if 5th Cell will ever be as good at gameplay as it is concept, but Kotaku loved the DS version.
Hasbro Family Game Night 2
The Backyardigans
World of Zoo
Spongebob: Truth or Square
Hidden Mysteries Titanic
Jurassic The Hunted
Mountain Sports
Chronicles of Mystery:  The Curse of the Ancient Temple
Petz Hamsterz Bunch
Monster 4×4: Stunt Racer
Dream salon
Sushi Academy
All STar Cheer Squad
CSI Deadly Intent
Ni Hao, Kai-Lan:  Super Game Day

Posted in Wallet Abuse | 3 Comments »

Good Willl Hurting

Posted by nfinit on October 26, 2009

No one likes being told something is happening “for their own good”.

It’s condescending.  It’s patronizing.  The implication is that the person being spoken to is incapable of making their own decisions.  Usually these words are uttered right before medical personnel are about to perform an outstandingly painful procedure upon your person.  In most other cases, it’s complete bullshit.  In any event, the words “it’s for your own good” never  results in something good happening to the person being spoken to.
Yet this is exactly what Infinity Ward’s Community Relations Manager Robert Bowling has been tasked to tell PC gamers.  The removal of dedicated servers in favor of Infinity Ward’s closed, console-like system is for their own good.  Finding servers, the PC community has been asked to believe, is hard.
Now gamers aren’t, as a rule, naive.  Our hobby demands building an intimate relationship with psychotic multi billion dollar corporations; we know when we’re about to get fucked.  If Infinity Ward had just said “hey, piracy sucks and if you want us to keep PC games this is the way it’s gotta be” then people would probably be more willing to give Infinity Ward the benefit of the doubt.  No one’s going to argue in favor of piracy  But they didn’t do that.  We were told, in essence, “finding servers is unfair for some and whatnot”

Which, okay– they have a point.  It’s discouraging to open up a server list and be presented with a litany of server types and hosts without any way of knowing the quality of servers or who they’re playing against.  But is shutting down public servers the answer?  Is there any intrinsic reason why the operation of private servers owned and operated by Infinity Ward would require the shutdown of public servers?  If the public found Infinity Ward’s system compelling and easy to use, wouldn’t they migrate over there anyway?  Then you could take those numbers and point to them to use as an excuse to shut down public servers for Call of Duty 7: Modern Warfare 2 Part 2.

And who knows, maybe Infinity Ward is telling the truth.  Maybe their intentions are entirely altruistic and not related to a to sell PC gamers downloadable content or to facilitate moving gamers over to the next CoD game by shutting down Modern Warfare 2 servers.  Maybe we should be taking their issues at face value, no matter how flimsy their rationale may sound  Problem is, Infinity Ward is owned by this guy:

No one trusts Bobby Kotik, not even his own employees, and as a result no one trusts anything that comes out of his properties.  He’s on the record as saying he wishes to make game development as joyless as prospect as possible, that he’s focused on The Bottom Line above all other concerns, that games are actually over-valued.  The fact that Activision is selling Tony Hawk: Ride, Band Hero, Guitar Hero V and DJ Hero– all $120+ packages– this holiday season only serves to enforce this message among gamers.  And let’s not forget that Infinity Ward is asking PC gamers to pay the $10 HD console tax that cropped up with the Xbox 360.  Not only are PC gamers being told to make do with fewer options, they’re being asked to pay sixty bucks for the privilege of doing so.

My question is, now that we know Infinity Ward is not immune to Activision corporate meddling, where does this leave Blizzard?  Yeah, World of Warcraft is a money cow.  So is/was Call of Duty.  If Infnity Ward isn’t sacrosanct within the halls of Activision, neither is Blizzard.  We already know Starcraft is being sold in a three-box set, the full game will cost you between $150-180, depending on if Activision can get the console tax to stick to PC releases (and Activision being Activision, you know they will).  This is very much in line with the Guitar Hero model.  Also, Blizzard has been willing to sell services on WoW Blizzard has previously been skittish about implementing, services such as cross-server character transfers and faction switches.  Before we thought this was just Blizzard testing their market but now you have to wonder.  More importantly, you have to wonder where it stops.

Posted in Our Industry Is Awful, Sperging about games | Leave a Comment »

Bad Controllers– The NES

Posted by nfinit on October 23, 2009

Before I come off as a raving lunatic with this update, I’d like to offer a few caveats.

Yes, the NES was a great system.  Even the bit of me that remains a rabid 16-bit Sega fanboy must admit that.  Yes it had a hand in saving the industry after the Crash.  Yes, its library was great.  I won’t deny any of those things.  And I also won’t deny that I seethed with jealousy as I watched my NES-owning friends play an entire generation’s worth of iconic gaming goodness I never had full access to.

But there’s something else I refuse to deny.  I refuse to deny that thing thing:

Bad controller.  Magnificent tabletop!

Bad controller; magnificent distressed pine tabletop!

Wasn’t an awful controller.

c’mon.  Admit it.  You remember the halcyon days of ’87, cross-legged before the family TV on a Saturday morning, those precious hours when the parents had Things To Do other than watch television, throwing bombs at every exposed wall in Hyrule your thumb sore and blistered from the direction pad, your fingers numb from trying to find purchase against the thin sliver of plastic in your hands, your tendons writhing in agony from being held in a position previously only found in woodcarvings depicting the Spanish Inquisition–

For those of you too young to have played games on the NES, you can easily re-create the NES game pad experience thusly:

1:  Locate a bathroom.  For purposes of this experiment it is recommended that you do not use your own bathroom or that of anyone you wish to remain acquaintances with.

2:  Using a hammer, brick, or similar dense object break off a chunk of tile, roughly four inches wide and two inches  As we are striving for an authentic re-creation of the NES experience, sharp edges are not to be avoided, they are in fact encouraged.  Do not be shocked or concerned at the sight of your own blood, this is normal.

3:  Grip the tile as if you were trying to type out a text message.  Feel free to hum the Super Mario Brothers world 1 theme during this time.  Maybe pretend you’re blowing up Hitler’s head with a rocket launcher.

4:  Do nothing else for the next four hours.

Not only was the NES pad a stunning setback for the state of ergonomic design, it’s popularity made it the de facto standard of it’s day, and as a result all competing systems had gamepads that aped the basic design.  The Sega Master System gamepad, for instance–

(basically everything in the 80s looked like itd cut you if you touched it.  I blame Reagan)

(basically everything in the '80s looked like it'd cut you if you touched it. I blame Reagan)

Only compounded matters with a d-pad more suited for hitting diagonals than a straight line, as well as the absence of a pause button.  Atari, meanwhile, in a very Atari-like move, managed to make a bad situation worse with their own attempt at a gamepad for the 7800.

In accordance to California legislation, all Atari badging must also serve as warning against accidental use.

(In accordance to California legislation, all Atari badging must also serve as warning against accidental use.)

Nintendo’s SNES controller would continue their fundamental misunderstanding of the operational tolerances for the human hand– although concessions were made for a more rounded, less Torquemada-inspired shape, the SNES controller was still entirely too thin for be comfortably held for any appreciable length of time.

But sadomasochistic industrial design was not the only place the NES controller failed in it’s goal of providing a comfortable gaming apparatus– there were two other baffling, albeit subtler design cues that continue to haunt modern gamepad design to this day.  For instance, the Select button:

Grey, Black, Red-- Yup, its 1984!

(Grey, Black, Red, dodgy Star Trek font-- Yup, it's 1984!)

As is immediately apparent to anyone who’s ever played Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!, the NES controller simply doesn’t have enough buttons.  This was a common issue at the time, the stuff the NES was capable of playing had a layer of complexity that often required more than two simple action buttons– even arcade titles of the day could easily swamp the NES’s abilities, for that reason many games made use of the NES’s Select button.  Now, one may ask why stupid thing wasn’t just an action button to begin with, after all it’s not like you needed a separate button to “select” menu options when your thumb was already on the d-pad to begin with.  But it was a simpler age, I suppose– what’s truly baffling is that the idea of an option button remains with us still.  The Dual Shock and all Xbox controllers retain this vestigial curiosity, whereas the current 360 and the Playstation 3 controllers feature a second option button in the Live/Home buttons.  Nintendo itself looked to be rid of this redundant button with the N64 and Gamecube controllers only to have the Wii Remote feature four option buttons available at any given time.  At least Sega had the good sense to only include one big, easy-to-find Pause button on any controller they made, although with the other horrible design decisions made with the Dreamcast it’s a wonder they didn’t hide the Pause button underneath the optical drive door.

Then there’s Nitnendo’s charming inability to grasp the most basic mechanics of the English alphabet:

(A second possibility remains that Nintendo intended for the controller to spell out Bad Dudes and ran out of buttons

(It's entirely possible that Nintendo intended to spell out "BAD DUDES" and simply ran out of buttons)

I can’t believe this doesn’t get enough notice– Maybe it’s because the majority of gamers my age grew up with the NES/SNES, but the backwards nomenclature of Nintendo action buttons confuses me to this day.  Maybe you could make and excuse that Nintendo is a Japanese company and thus it only makes sense for the alphabet to be read backwards, but why the hell could Sega figure this out twenty years ago?  Sega’s not even in business anymore!  Nintendo has had three decades for someone in the organization to point out to Shigero Myamoto that B should follow A and not the other way around.  As a result, most Nintendo games have had their action button wired to the outermost button on the pad, whereas with Sony, Microsoft and Sega have managed to figure out that the main action button should remain in the general vicinity of where the thumb naturally falls– in other words, the innermost action button.  To this day when I pick up my DS I’m stuck for a few moments as my brain attempts to rewire thirty years of muscle memory to Nitnendo’s insane, sadistic demands.

What’s neat is that sometimes the Nintendo method for mapping action buttons will pop up in games not appearing on Nintendo systems.  Metal Gear Solid is the most notable example– Apparently it’s asking too much of Hideo Kojima to compromise his artistic vision so that the button layout in his games makes some sort of logical sense.

But by far the worst feature in the NES’s liturgy of bad design is the very part that has stayed around the longest– The implement of torture known as the Nintendo D-Pad.

(Not quite as bad as the AIDS epidemic ravaging Africa, but a close second!)

(Not quite as bad as the AIDS epidemic ravaging Africa, but a close second!)

Just look at that thing!  It looks like something a goth chick would have pierced through one or more naughty bits.  It’s something you expect to see emblazoned in wrought iron on the helms of soldiers of the Austrian Empire.  It’s something that, if you were to see it in a videogame, you would instinctively run into the next screen to get away from.  And yet for thirty years it has stood as the industry standard, three decades of adults and children alike willingly pressing that hard plastic shard into their tender thumbs, smiling all the while, memories of Megaman and Kirby forever associated with crippling pain that they’ve been trying to forget for the past third of a century.

It didn’t have to be this way!  Lo, Nintendo-ites, and weep as you behold what a D-Pad was meant to look like, and with it a controller that was meant to be held by the human hand!

(The best thing to ever fit into your hand that isnt also attached to another person.)

(The best thing to ever fit into your hand that isn't also attached to another person.)

Observe a directional pad that is actually cut long enough so that the thumb never need rests against against a blister-inducing edge, marvel in the floating circular design that flows in the direction of your thumb instead of stubbornly pressing against it, diagonals that actually respond when called upon, and three (three!) magnificently large action buttons that fall naturally beneath your thumb!

Yeah okay so in 1999 Sega tried to copy everything wrong about Nintendo controller design and promptly went out of business. I’m blaming the NES pad for that, too.


At this point I must ask myself if I am being fair to the NES controller, and to be honest I’m not entirely.  As I mentioned above it’s not like anyone was doing a better job at the time, we’re talking about an era where the previous Best Controller Of All Time was quite literally a stick and a button atop a slab of black plastic. Its more notable for the horrible ideas that successive hardware designers simply could never shed themselves of to this very day.  The controller itself is fondly remembered because it was the best of a very bad bunch, but its popularity would ensure that its design would linger for decades to come.

Next week I return to the Atari for the truly atrocious 5200 joystick, a controller so bad it probably sank the console it was sold with.

Posted in Bad Controllers, Sperging about games | 3 Comments »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 10-21-09

Posted by nfinit on October 21, 2009

As majestically wallet-violating as last week was, this week looks to be terrible insofar as quality games.  Of the thirty some odd games Gamestop has listed as releasing sometime this week, I would classify maybe a half dozen as something other than shovelware.  The absence of quality gaming  is all the more perplexing  when you realize there’s a little more than a month left until Black Friday– Maybe this week looked better before Modern Warfare 2 scared everyone else into January 2010.

Let’s not mince words.  This week sucks.  But that’s okay because

Love. And lazers. But mostly love!

still loves us!

People who played the first Space Invaders Extreme can skip to the next part where I try to find something bad to say about Borderlands; you’re either already buying SIE2 come Wednesday or are sick in the head and need professional help.  For you poor benighted folk who’ve yet to play Space Invaders Extreme, this is for you.

The glory of Space Invaders Extreme  It’s hard to explain in pictures because, well–

man what

man what

It’s sorta incomprehensible in stills.  Even the videos don’t really explain what’s going on as Taito’s official trailers look like they threw a hundred dollars at a kid operating Windows Movie Maker and still got ripped off.  Instead, I’ll try to explain in words:

Lumnies + Space Invaders.  But even better than that! It’s one of those zen-inducing games that can wreak havoc upon your life, causing you to miss train stops, conference calls, cries for attention from your children, fire alarms, oncoming traffic, the beeping noise large trucks make when they’re rolling backwards– and it’s a fantastically deep experience on top of that, with strategies and skills that only become apparent after you’ve sunk dozens of hours into the game and have long since been served with divorce papers for marital neglect.

I don’t know how to make a game sound better than that without also including free booze and/or oral sex.  Maybe also Araknoid?  Because it has a little of that, too.  Plus it’s dirt cheap, for $20 you’re simply not going to find a better way to spend your gaming dollar this holiday season.

Let’s be perfectly honest– you shouldn’t buy this version of the game.  If you’re buying Borderlands, you’re buying it for the PC– the only conceivable reason to ever own this for the consoles is if your PC isn’t powerful enough to run Borderlands, and if you’re the type of gamer who wants to play Borderlands what’s the point of owning it on something other than the PC in the first place?  No, you wait a week and buy the PC version.

Here’s the real question– Does Borderlands secretly suck?  One has to go all the way back to Gearbox’s very first game, Opposing Force, to find a game they’ve had published that’s not been either a generic WWII shooter or a pc port of a console game.  Nick Breckon’s (of Idle Thumbs podcast fame) impressions were that the game felt buggy and rushed, and the core concept– Diablo With Guns– isn’t exactly new territory.

Note:  The above paragraph ws entirely me being bitter because my PC can’t possibly run Borderlands.  It’s probably a good game, or at least competent enough to make the concept work.  You wander around a wasteland, you blow up mutants, you collect loot from their still cooling remains.  It’s a timeless theme, the sort of thing that’s hard to fuck up unless you’re trying. But unless you’re the sort of person who’d rather play Left for Dead on a console there’s no sense in buying the PS360 version

UPDATE:  nevermind, I’m wrong;  it’s pretty awesome

This is a weird, neutered version of the original DS game that was itself weird and neutered as compared to every post GTA3 game released.  It’s a console GTA with at least two abstraction layers placed on top of it and the most compelling part of the original DS version– the stylus controlled minigames– shunted to the thumbstick, which sounds like a terrible, terrible idea.

Chinatown Wars PSP best serves as an example of just how far the games industry has moved away from Sony over the past console generation.  Three years ago we’d have been discussing Chinatown Wars as a PS2 port brought over from the PSP original– Now you have Rockstar games developing fully-realized GTA games with a Nintendo handheld as the lead platform.  Grand Theft Auto has gone from a flagship Playstation franchise to an afterthought for Sony hardware, and if it’s weren’t for Sony’s huge push for developers for PSP Go development  Chinatown Wars probably would have ever moved off the DS to begin with.

(on another note, is anyone concerned that Chinatown Wars PSP is the lead– and only– standalone title for Rockstar going into 2010?  I mean, this and Gay Tony are all Rockstar has to sell for this Christmas.  It’s almost enough to convince Take 2 to take desperate measures, maybe like seeding GAF with hyperbolic viral marketers for Borderlands or something. Oh wait)

I’ve only been doing this three weeks and I’m already tired of these DS JRP– waitaminute

Are those…

Airships!  GLEE~!



Okay wait all that is predictable and bland, but outside of the generic JRPG party-based stuff this looks a lot like Skies of Arcadia, and that’s good enough for me, as apparently Overworks is only interested in making alternate history tank battle games for the foreseeable future.

(tangential:  Why hasn’t Squeenix made a Final Fantasy Airship game already?  The Highwind, Blackjack and Airship Invincible are icons for any game who grew up playing JRPGs and are perfect fodder for the sort of nostalgia wankery Squeenix has built it’s post-Spirits Within empire upon.  I could go on all day about the neglect of the Final Fantasy airship fleet– where is the Blackjack Lego set?  Why can’t I buy a Lunar Whale gashapon?  Where is Einhander II starring The Sthral?  Why have I talked twice as long about FF airships as I have Nostalgia DS?  Why couldn’t I find a place to work in a Balloon Kid joke in this entire paragraph?)

This time around Cooking Mama opens things up a little by including what appears to be a Phoenix Wright-like minigame where you have to berate grocery store clerks to find the stink cabbage or shark testicles or ground magnesium or some other godforsaken Japanese delicacy.  That’s cute.  Sadly we’ll never see Southern Style Cooking Mama, where the grocery store portion would be finding Crisco, buying Crisco, cooking everything in Crisco, returning to the store for more Crisco; dying at age 40 due to massive heart failure.

I’m taking Gamestop’s word for this as there’s no way in hell I’m searching google for “Wii Water Sports”.  I predict a steady stream of sales in Germany, however.

I have nothing interesting to say here as this is Soccer and I am American.  There are some things I remain steadfastly old-fashioned about and an utter inability to feign interest in “The Beautiful Sport” remains atop the list, along with holding doors open for women like a proper Southern Gentleman and a firm belief in the continued subjugation of carnies and albinos.

New rule: I get to relegate any game related to a Cartoon Network property to the shovelware pile.

I am also extending this rule to properties that should be on Cartoon Network, but for inexplicable reasons are not.

It is so awesome that the Carly Fiorina campaign is making a videogame.

They are using the media in new and creative ways.

(note:  Joke stolen from the mcc @

Hey, Majesco!  Who’s the laziest publishing company on the face of the earth?

That’s right, you are!

Holy shit!  A new RPG by Bethesda!  I need to jump all over that shit oh wait

Oh yeah.  Wii Game.

Oh yeah. Wii Game.

Sadly not to be mistaken for Mid Evil, the boardgame:

Coolest picture of the update BY FAR

I feel I could show this to XSeed and get a job

Yeah.  I was going to talk about wrestling this week, but honestly Hell In a Cell ruined whatever renewed interested I may have had in the current WWE product.  Also Botchamania is dead so there’s nothing worth following anymore.  Good luck with your hour of Cena vs Orton, guys.

For people who thought Marvel Ultimate Alliance was perhaps too hardcore but Lego games aren’t quite hardcore enough.  Actually this might be a worthwhile little brawler that serves as a stealthy way for geek parents to introduce Marvel lore to their children, and it may indeed prove a more worthwhile game than Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.  Also it’s just darned adorable.  Alright I can’t find anything bad to say about this, let’s move on.

Oh much better.  Of course the crown jewel of this collection remains Pajama Party, which is a set of Wii Games for girls during sleepovers.  Although if porn has taught me anything I don’t see how EA expects teenage girls to have time for this thing  in between the constant experimental makeout sessions.

Wait, that was horrible and creepy of me.  Let’s try this again:

If EA didn’t co-develop this series with federal and state child predator law enforcement divisions, they’ve missed a huge opportunity.  Pre-orders for any of these games should provide sufficient cause for a visit by Chris Hansen.


Madagascar Kartz (everything)
Imagine: Fashion Designer World
Tour (DS)
AstroBoy: The Videogame (PS2)
Alien Monster Bowling League
Littlest Pet Shop:  Beach
Dragon Ball: Revenge of King
Piccolo (Wii)
Littlest Pet Shop:  City
Friends (DS)
Mytran Wars(DS)
Backyard Football 2010 (wii)
Mountian Sports (Wii)
Littliest Pet Shop: Country Friends (DS)

Posted in Wallet Abuse | Leave a Comment »

Gamerpocaylpse Now!

Posted by nfinit on October 20, 2009

If there’s one thing gamers can’t get enough of it’s creepy Deviantart pages dedicated to Sonic the Hedgehog characters!

If there’s two things gamers can’t get enough of, it’s hashing over what horrible imagined threats wish to strip our games away from us and force us to get real jobs and/or pay attention to our spouses. While most of these are irrational bogeyman, it’s an understandable reflex; our industry is composed of highly creative individuals whom we wish to support who happen to be managed by awful, awful people who are horribly ineffective businessmen and/or outright sociopaths. In addition, every time a new school shooting takes place we’re the first people the media want to blame, which leads me to question how William’s pinball division avoided a media firestorm when Charles Whitman climbed atop a bell tower in Austin, Texas.

But that’s for another day. For now let’s take a look at who’s currently trying to ruin our industry, and how they’re going about it, both from within and without and their odds for doing so:

Bobby Kotik

Title: CEO, Activision

Accomplishments: Reduced the Tony Hawk franchise to a flaming ruin, made Guitar Hero a tedious chore; urinated upon grave of Kurt Cobain; turned Infinity Ward into the most hated name in PC gaming; Ruined Blizzard, crushed creative spirit of all subordinates.

Method: All-consuming hatred; greed.

Synopsis: Bobby Kotik hates you and wants your money and has exploited this managerial philosophy to make Activision Blizzard the largest and most profitable videogame publisher in the world. Bobby Kotik cares not for the creative process or the idea of “games as art” or even for “games as reasonably price mediums of entertainment.”. He is possessed of nothing but contempt and greed, and you kinda have to respect that sort of singularity of vision.

Odds of Success: 1:10. Seething contempt and unlimited power are a powerful combination for success, something any student of Soviet Russia can attest. We are fortunate in that Activision has overstepped its bounds somewhat this console cycle, what with Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero, Band Hero and Tony Hawk Ride all selling for $120 each and their absurdly large boxes competing for shelf space inside the cramped confines of your local Wal-Mart electronics section this holiday season.

Peter Moore

Title: President; EA Sports

Accomplishments: Head of Sega of America, Corporate VP of Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business, destroyed Sega as we know it Worldwide five time Head That Most Resembles Creepy Alien Skull winner.

Method: Shifts focus of EA to digital distribution and PC hardware; Mastery of sinister telepathic powers.

Synopsis: Okay so maybe Peter Moore isn’t that much of a danger to the console world, but it was his recent speech at the PLAY Berkley Digital Media Conference that inspired this update, wherein he described the current console business model thusly:

“I’d say the core business model of video games is a burning platform”

Which would seem to indicate that EA doesn’t have a lot of faith in the way console games are currently sold. Which is all well and good, but you do also wonder if we’re going to make a shift to a download only retail model if there’s any real need for the console at all at that point and if we wouldn’t be better off just playing games on our computers– which is not something I necessarily disagree with, to be honest.

Odds of Success: 1:100. Let’s not forget, Peter Moore might be hugely successful, wealthy beyond all reason and can dent the side panel of a ’74 Buick via headbutt, but this is also the guy who oversaw the Dreamcast launch in America and Sega’s subsequent departure from the console market. Also the disastrous launch of Microsoft’s first Xbox, wherein Microsoft managed to release a popular console that they did not own the rights to manufacture. Or the Xbox 360, a wildly successful console with a 57% failure rate. What I’m saying is, EA may well abandon the console retail market, but only to see every game downloaded also infest owner’s computers with child pornography and/or the code for Skynet.

David Jaffe

Title: Co-Founder, Eat Sleep Play Games; Creative Director, SCEA; Game Development Dude, leader of the Cult of the One Console Future

Accomplishments: Directed the Twisted Metal games; also the God of War games; berates interviewers; engaged in an unhealthy and destructive relationship with NeoGAF.

Method: Refuses to shut up about the One Console Future; excessive use of Quick Time Event elements in God of War.

Synopsis: David Jaffee and his legions at NeoGAF have hit upon the hellish idea of the One Console Future, the insane concept that it would be far preferable for there to only be one console and we’d like it very much to be a Sony console thank you very much
Odds of success: Even. Well, it’s going to happen eventually of course, but hopefully not until some point fifty years in the future where there’s one little company in Brazil dutifully producing Sega Genesis consoles. Other than that, Not Bloody Likely, as Jaffee and his proponents forget that we already did the one console thing twice over– the first time lead to the Crash of ’84, the second Nintendo was sued for anti-competitive business practices. Luckily as long as Jaffee remains tied to Sony he remains utterly harmless


Title: Online distributed computing client; lousy controller

Accomplishments: Soaking up millions of venture capital; raising hopes to ultimately be dashed; allows Steve Perlman access to only the finest Columbian blow with which to snort off the asses of $1k/hour Japanese hookers; instantly erased any gaming community credulity built since the announcement of The Phantom; promises to rid Newegg of millions of dollars worth of USB v1.1 hub back stock.

Method: Dissolution of console games industry through use of secret internet alchemy that allows data packets to travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

Synopsis: OnLive promises to rid gamers of the restrictive, DRM ridden, expensive console games industry with its own restrictive, proprietary games-to-rent system using games you’ll never own in physical or digital form. It aims to accomplish this feat by a system of distributed gaming cloud computing, where instead of sitting in front of a television attached to a gaming console, you’d sit in front of your PC, which is attached to a OnLive Router, which is attached to the Internet, which is attached to the OnLive server farm somewhere in Santa Clara, California, where the game would be played on a computer there instead, sent back through the internet to the router to your computer back to you. OnLive proposes to accomplish this feat through “secret optimization code” that may or may not involve ground unicorn horn and fresh pixie blood.

Odds of Success: 1:100,000. Games currently run at anywhere from 30-to-120 frames per second at HDTV resolutions. If OnLive had the sort of technology that allowed transfer of that much data at that sort of speed why in god’s name are they wasting this tech on Burnout Paradise? Even if this works, it’s instantly shut out of any ISP that institutes bandwidth caps and wholly removes gamers who do not have access to broadband speed. Although I’m sure OnLive also has a plan involving unmanned zeppelins and microwave beams to help these poor benighted folk.

Jack Thompson

Title: Lovable buffoon

Accomplishments: Through a series of comical misunderstandings obtained a license to practice law in the state of Florida; subsequently stripped of right to do so sometime shortly after

Method: Incessant legal filings; clowning around before the media; somehow hired to write state law for the state of Louisiana.

Synopsis: To be perfectly honest Jack Thompson, who was more or less a marginal threat to begin with has been largely neutered by the fact that he is now incapable of practicing law. His once formidable powers are now bent upon the destruction of Facebook, which he has sued for forty million dollars as well as his new quest; to seek bloody vengeance upon the entire judicial system of Florida.

Odds of Success: Nonexistent. Games legislation is advertising for Jack Thompson and he knows it. If gaming goes out of business, he goes out of business.

Barrack Obama

Title: US Senator; De Facto 44th President of the United States of America; Anti-Christ

Accomplishments: First African-American President, Appeared on cover of Amazing Spider-Man and Savage Dragon

Method: Use of executive powers to force gamers into slave labor camps

Synopsis: He’s on the record as saying parents need to force their children outside instead of sitting inside playing videogames– We can only assume this is to make it easier for government officials to round up the confused, winded gaming masses and force them into government-operated gulags. Also his daughters love the Wii, which itself is attempting to destroy gaming. Plus a significant portion of the populace is convinced he is the Son of Satan, so that might be a concern for some.

Odds of Success: 1: 100,000,000. Luckily there’s no way Obama gets to pass anti-gamer legislation without someone at the Huffington Post mis-hearing it as “anti-gay legislation” and thus subjecting the administration to three weeks worth of hyperbolic, knee-jerk blog commentary and the administration decides to meet everyone halfway by buying everyone in the nation a Nintendo Wii as long as they promise to buy a copy of Wii Fit.

Ghost of Jack Tramiel

Title: President; destroyer of Atari Computers; Hate-fueled Specter of Death

Accomplishments: Possible responsible for the Crash of ’84; Destruction of the US videogame industry; power from beyond the grave.

Method: Seething hatred for fun; vengeful ghost powers

Synopsis: More powerful than death than he was in life, the Ghost of Jack Tramiel seeks to finish the job he only began while still living: The utter destruction of the games industry. Driven by hatred and shockingly poor business acumen, his spirit lives on in every 360 Red Ring of Death, in every failed Wii disc drive, in every cracked DS screen hinge.

UPDATE: After further research it turns out that Jack Tramiel is inexplicably still alive. It remains unclear if this makes him more or less powerful than before or if perhaps he is a Litch, his shambling husk driven on by an all-consuming hatred for electronic media. If he is a litch, then no doubt his phylactery remains hidden in a place no one think to look or dare touch, most likely a or a copy of the Jaguar port of Primal Rage. As always, be vigilant and consult your local Romani for proper defense against undead.


Title: Leave Luck To Heaven (rough translation)

Accomplishments: Resurrection of the videogames industry immediately following the Crash of ’84 with the Famicom/NES; Third most valuable company in Japan; crushing the dreams of Ichiro Suzuki to one day play in a World Series game; murder of Gunpei Yokoi; ruined gaming; creation of the worst controller in the history of the world in the Nintendo 64.

Method: Continued success of the Wii; being Nintendo.

Synopsis: Founded by the Japanese Mafia to distribute gambling peripherals and to launder yen, Nintendo has built an empire of the family friendly racial caricature that is Mario Mario. Using this vast wealth Nintendo then produced the Wii and the DS, a two-pronged attack against good gaming that has proven enormously successful.

Odds of Success: It already happened! For fuck’s sake the top selling game of the console generation has been a minigame collection where gameplay largely consists of spastically waving your arms! It’s over! They won! I told you this would happen but none of you believed me! You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you all to hell!


Title: Sony Corp; Sony Computer Entertainment; Sony Financial; Sony Pictures Classics; Sony Pictures Mobile; Sony Pictures Studio; Arista; Arista Nashville;
BNA Records; Columbia Records; Epic; Sony Music Japan; RCA; Sony Ericson Sony Group.
Accomplishments: one of the largest media conglomerates in the world; establishment of the Playstation brand; complete and total destruction of the Playstation brand

Method: Overpowering incompetence

Synopsis: Despite such confusing signals as a price drop to $299 for the PS3, Sony remains a potent force in the dissolution of the console gaming market– The PSP Go looks to wholly ruin any hope of digital distribution gaining hold in the console industry and their continued bungling of over twelve years of industry dominance and community good will remains an inspiration for such global luminaries of incompetence as General Motors; AIG and America Online.

Odds of success: 1 : 10,000. Although Sony’s continued efforts in destroying their good name and the good will of the gaming community are commendable; they remain hampered by their continued inability to sell games and thus extend their reach of soul-crushing incompetence to a wider market.


Title: Microsoft Corporation; The Black Ram of the Forest with a Thousand Ewe; Wife of the Not-To-Be-Named-One

Method: All-encompassing predatory evil; Red Ring of Death; silent dread; hard drive attachment that’s tantamount to goddamned highway robbery; Space Marines
Synopsis: Sinister, cynical, openly malevolent and greedy as all fuck, Microsoft has launched a full-on assault on the gaming industry by producing a games console that at once possesses the largest and most compelling game library while at the same time making it an utter fucking chore to actually participate in the hobby. Between their constant nickel-and-dime tactics via overcharging for online play, wifi access and any sort of data storage combined with 57% hardware fail rate they’ve done more to destroy the public’s trust in console gaming than any single entity.

Odds of success: 1 : 10,000. Despite Microsoft’s best intentions developers remain intent on producing games for the system.


Wow, so that went on way longer than I expected and I still never got to Bernie Stolar or Ubisoft or Micheal Pachter.


Posted in lolsony, Oh God No, Our Industry Is Awful, Sperging about games | 1 Comment »

Bad Controllers– Pelican Sucks Special Edition

Posted by nfinit on October 17, 2009

As long as consoles have had controller ports, there have been knockoff 3rd party gamepads.  Some of these have been improvements upon the original design:

This picture officially banned in seven US states as well as the entirety of Australia

This picture officially banned in seven US states as well as the entirety of Australia

Or a more recent example, the best Playstation controller ever made, Logitech’s sublime wireless PS2 controller:

So smooth, so supple, its probably what a girl feels like!

So smooth, so supple, it's probably what a girl feels like!

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  No, I’m here because of shit like this:

Seventy dollar Gamestop exclusive or a five dollar controller decal?  You make the call!

Seventy dollar Gamestop exclusive or a five dollar controller decal? You make the call!

Unless you’re one of the insane, dedicated few willing to throw good money down to improve upon the perfectly functional controller that was sold with your system, the term “third party controller” most directly translates to “chinzy crap”, the sort of gaming peripheral even mainstream gamers feel awkward about buying and the hardcore only turn to as a last resort.  Maybe you’re putting together a used system for a nephew who doesn’t know any better.  This is the sort of thing that leads down this horrible road:



Maybe you found out that your fourth for Madden Night doesn’t own a PS2 and has no intention of buying a controller.  Then this could happen:

The front of this controller is fashioned from the hood of a 75 El Camino.  True story.

The front of this controller is fashioned from the hood of a '75 El Camino. True story.

Or maybe you’re just an awful human being

Choking hazard

Choking hazard

Either way, it’s rare to go into the process of buying a 3rd party controller and expecting a quality piece of kit out of the process.  Which is a shame, as there’s no need for most of these efforts to look and feel as cheap as they do.  It’s like these manufacturers go out of their way to make their product as regrettable a purchase as possible.  After all, there’s no good reason for something like this to exist

Terrible joke immediately following:

Warning: Insensitive joke immediately following this caption

Unless you’re specifically trying to embarrass someone in the process.  You’re telling me that at no point in the design process for this abomination that someone didn’t speak up and say “Hey, maybe it’s just me or does our controller look like it has Down’s Syndrome?”

As you’ve probably noticed, 3rd party controllers tend to share a lot of design cues.  Inexplicable rubber grips are a favorite

I'm almost positive I owned a Trapper Keeper with this exact image

Sadly horrible squid monster remains criminally underused in modern industrial design

"Horrible squid monster" remains criminally underused in modern industrial design

More rubber than a UCLA frat house

More rubber than a UCLA frat house

These moldings seem to exist entirely to peel off and leave a gummy residue that immediately makes the user regret ever holding the controller after about a week of use, provided they manage to last that long without first breaking apart in a cloud of polystyrene splinters.

Also popular is pasting the controller maker’s logo over the front of the gamepad, as nothing provides better advertisement for a shitty controller than a sticker the size of a baby’s head.

Quick, name Captain Americas favorite gamepad!

Quick, name Captain America's favorite gamepad!

This isnt hip!  This isnt hip at all!

This isn't hip! This isn't hip at all!

The Microsoft Xbox, brought to you by Mad Catz!

The Microsoft Xbox, brought to you by Mad Catz!

Let us not forget the inexplicable presence of the Slowmo button, a relic from the 8 bit days that remains with us still.  They were of marginal use back when hitting “start” merely paused the game– now that hitting “start” usually brings up a menu screen, the slow-motion button is good way to wipe out your entire savegame file, or irreversibly turn your console’s translation setting to Swahili.  Hori is strangely dedicated to the idea of turbo and slo-mo switches, despite their otherwise sterling reputation as one of the few 3rd party controller manufacturers that actually go out of thier way to improve upon the original product.  For instance, Hori’s otherwise excellent 360 gamepad:

Hori deserves better than to be placed in the same page as Pelican

Hori: More proof that the Japanese are more awesome than you

You hit the wrong switch on this thing and you can wind up buying three thousand dollars worth of Netflix rentals before you regain control of your system.

Sometimes a bad controller can come about as a result of a company thinking they have a clever new idea that ultimately proves disastrous .  For instance, the Nyko AirFlo controller likely sounded like a good idea when it was being thrown around in committee– For whatever reason Nyko’s engineers (this is provided Nyko or any other third party controller vendor actually employs engineers) thought that hand sweat was a pressing issue for gamers, so they took a Dual Shock, gutted the rumble motors, carved just enough holes in what remained to provide some sibilance of structural rigidity and came up with this goddamned thing:

The T stands for Terrible waste of money

Something the Borg would use, if the Borg were lame and had an unreasonable fascination with surplus PC cooling fans

Which, I dunno.  Maybe the AirFlo was a good idea, but I never trusted the thing as it felt like it gripping it too hard would result in my palms being ripped to shreds by a pile of ABS plastic shards, like some sort of gaming stigmata.

Rarely, a company can go the extra mile and take a pre-existing bad controller– let’s say the godawful N64 pad– and through some horrible dark alchemy known only by the most potent necromancers– make it worse.

The Pelican logo isnt so much branding as it is a dire warning

The Pelican logo isn't so much branding as it is a dire warning

You have to admire Pelican’s dedication to it’s craft.  Here they’ve managed to combine the worst parts of the SNES and the N64 controllers into a pulsating green blob.  Pelican is remarkably good at this sort of thing, they’ve turned regretable controller purchases into something of a cottage industry.  Take for instance the “Wii Compatable Wired Game Pad”

“Classic retro design and feel”.  It’s a Gamecube pad!  This isn’t retro!  YOu can’t call something that was still in production two years ago retro!  You’re just trying to trick soccer moms into buying this thing for ten bucks instead of the Classic Wii controller.  And I do mean “trick”, as the ‘cube controller doesn’t work with a lot of stuff the Classic Wii controller was designed for.  It’s deceptive shit like this that just turns people off gaming altogether and you’d think Sony and Microsof and Nintendo would institute a bit of quality control and truth in advertising for their liscensed vendors.


Hey, wasn’t this supposed to be the NES update?  Yes, it was!  However I would be doing Nintendo an injustice if I were to slag upon their company without my full creative abilities at my command.  So you got a cheap update full of pictures culled from Amazon instead.

Posted in Amazon is terrible, Bad Controllers, Oh God No | 3 Comments »

Bad Controllers Delayed

Posted by nfinit on October 16, 2009

No, I’ve not slipped into hiatus again; just that my bank is currently jerking me around and I’m going through a bit of a nervous breakdown that I’m determined to be done with by tonight. But as a result the NES edition of Bad Controllers won’t be out until sometime tomorrow.

To put some actual vidja gaems content into this post, I will report that I just attempted to play through Ninja Gaiden II again, having been discouraged by the double fire giant armadillo boss once Ryu is sent to Hell.

And y’know, I really badly want to love this game. The act of carving people up in NGII is, as far as I’m concerned, unparalleled in this particular genre, nothing really comes close to the ideal of combining a 3d fighter and Devil May Cry as this game.

But the game itself stubbornly refuses to be lovable. The camera is abhorrent, the wall jumping imprecise and arbitrary and the bosses– well, let’s just say that I got so far as the electric worm boss a the end of level 3, ejected the disc, turned off the console and spent the rest of the night trying to talk myself into picking Jacksonville over St Louis in my NFL suicide pool.

NGII is frustration defined, and while that may have been acceptable or even laudable one or two hardware generations ago, we’re at the point now where a game that refuses to meet the player halfway simply can’t be bothered with. Games are meant to be fun, or at the very least not willfully obstructionist.

The 3d brawler as defined by Devil May Cry is my favorite genre to have been introduced since the Playstation 2 era began. Which kinda sucks, as we only get maybe one or two of these a year. With the release of God of War III eminent– and annoying PS3 exclusive– I’d hoped NGII could sate my thirst for free-roaming bloodletting until the release of the sublime Bayonetta sometime next year.

Speaking of witch (god, I’m clever):

Beheadings, swords, guns, leggy leather chicks in glasses; Bayonetta is the last game you’ll ever need!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 10-14-09

Posted by nfinit on October 13, 2009

Y’know the bit in the Jurassic Park movies where the camera would cut to a coffee mug or a goldfish bowl or a puddle of Brontosaurus pee and you’d see in that the ripples of something far away and terribly destructive right before you heard the footsteps?  That’s what this week is to your wallet.
Uncharted 2 (PS3)
Im using the Japanese boxart because Im an elitist pig.  Also because its fing rad.

I'm using the Japanese boxart because I'm an elitist pig. Also because it's f'ing rad.

I don’t own a PS3 and probably won’t for a while yet, which makes it difficult to be interested in  the rare PS3 exclusive that insists on being a worthwhile gaming experience.  It’s sort of like following football and seeing a good quarterback go in the first round of the draft to a team in a conference you don’t follow– you know it’s good for that team, but you can’t really summon any enthusiasm one way or another as you know it’s going to be a long time, if ever, that you get to see that guy play.  In Uncharted 2’s case, which is ranking somewhere north of 95% on Metacritic at the time of this writing– it’s even more annoying as its’ the sort of quarterback ESPNwon’t shut up about.  I guess what I’m saying is that Uncharted 2 is the Matthew Stafford of videogames.

Really, that’s all I got for this.  Lame Bill Simmons jokes.  Naughty Dog even went through the trouble of disabling the godawful update-game-progress-to-facebook feature that was the only known source of lulz to be had.  This game is almost annoyingly competent.  I gotta stop talking about this before I get upset.

Brutal Legend (PS3, 360)
Not pictured:  Axe body spray

Not pictured: Axe body spray

Do you like racing games?  Do you like Devil May Cry?  Do you like Overlord?  Do you like Guitar Hero?  Do you like Jack Black?  Frank Frazetta artwork?  Seing emo boy bands beheaded and thier fans drenched in gouts of blood? What about this:

If you said “yes” to any of these things, then you need to play Brutal Legend!  And if there’s stuff up there you like but also stuff you don’t like, that’s okay too, because Brutal Legend will make you like it anyway!  If you couldn’t find anything to say “yes” to, then you probably need to play Brutal Legend anyway so you’ll stop being so lame.  Just like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Brutal Legend has something to teach everyone, only with more pentegrams and horned skulls and demon nuns.  This is from Tim Shafer, and it would appear he’s finally found a way to combine his brilliant writing with legitimately good gameplay, or at least in a combination with enough gameplay elements where something’s going to work at least once.  It even manages to make Jack Black interesting again, which is weird as he’s just playing Jack Black.  On the other hand, it’s easily the least embarassing thing Jack’s been involved with in years.

Half Minute Hero (PSP)

Please ignore this box.  This game deserves better.

Please ignore this box. This game deserves better.

It’s hard for me to express my enthusiasm for Half Minute Hero without sounding like a PR schill, so I’ll try to reduce my gushing to one line:  If you own a PSP, please buy this game. I cant’ even describe it correctly without it sounding like advertisement, so I’ll just do the lamest thing possible and link directly to the IGN preview video:

It’s just a shame such a great idea is being sent out to die by it’s publisher.  XSeed has all the marketing acumen of an Amish farmer– buying ads in Play is sort of pointless considering you’re advertising the game to the very sort of people who were going to buy the silly thing anyway.  I know you want to show willing,but would it be any more expensive to buy ads in an arena that doesn’t have 100% overlap with your pre-existing market?  Even buying ads in Clotide’s Sewing Savvy magazine would result in more sales than this.  It’s baffling.  These are the same guys who couldn’t get Retro Gaming Challenge to sell and as a result we’ll never see RGCII brought to America.  I hate these guys; they’re like the nega-universe Atlus, taking good games and making the developers involved wish they never heard of North America.

Speaking of baffling, I can’t figure out is why XSeed doesn’t take some creative control over the game and simply remove the FMV.  Half Minute Hero’s in-game graphics are an obvious ode to 8-bit sprite work, whereas everything outside the game itself looks like generic DS JRPG artwork wholly unrelated to anything else going on in the game proper.  It’s like the the guys from the Japanese production staff shuffled through some rejected commission work for unrelated games and called it a day:







Seriously though, how are these games related?

All this is ignoring the travesty of the North American boxart shown above.  I mean, just look at the Japanese version:



That looks like a game I’d be interested in buying!  They even managed to mangle the “30” in the NA version by adding some godawful generic Photoshop filter for no apparent reason.
Also, wait a week for this to appear for download the PSN store.  There’s just no good reason to buy this game on disc.

Mario And Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games (Wii, DS)

Looking at this is like chewing on tinfoil

Looking at this is like chewing on tinfoil

This game hurts my soul.  I don’t want to talk about it.

Somewhere someone has masturbated to this.

Alright fine.

Look, Nintendo.  I don’t like you and you don’t like me, and I can appreciate that.  But you’re just using Sega right now and you know it.  Look at the poor thing sitting over there drooling over itself and pretending people still give a shit about Altered Beast– It’s pathetic!  Just tell Sega that mixing Sonic in with Mario devalues your own franchise and be done with it.  You’ve humiliated Sega enough!  Somebody stop the damned match!

But before you do that let Sega make another F-Zero game.  kthx.

*Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers Darkness Time Sky (DS)

The RP stands for Rehashed Palbum

The RP stands for "Rehashed Palbum"

Did you know this is the 185th Pokemon released?  True story.  I am operating under the theory that Nintendo hasn’t actually produced a new mainline Pokemon game since the Gameboy Color and as simply been re-issuing the same game as kids grow out of the series.  This also explains the inclusion of the rare Pokemon LimpBizkitdon, references to the Matthew Shepard murder trial and the climatic final battle set in Columbine High School cafeteria.

*Dreamkiller (360)

Its always good when the VP of marketing hires his daughter to do promotional art

It's always good when the VP of marketing hires his daughter to do promotional art

Admit it.  I could tell you this was from Painkiller 2 and you wouldnt blink

Admit it. I could tell you this was from Serious Sam 2 and you wouldn't blink

Yup, that’s an FPS alright.  Good job, guys.

Way of the Samurai 3(PS3, 360)
Its like a buddy movie, but with more self-inflicted disembowling

It's like a buddy movie, but with more self-inflicted disembowling

Wait.  A free-action swordfighting game set in Feudal Japan where unseathing your sword during cut scenes is a gameplay mechanic?  Why haven’t I heard about this yet?  Why don’t I have this thing pre-orde–

I found your problem, sir!

I found your problem, sir!

Oh.  Well that’s too bad for Way of the Samurai 3.  Are developers like Aquire and Marvelous even aware of how badly they’re getting screwed over by their US publishers?  This is like if Maserati were to find out that their entire US distribution department was being handled by Crazy Pete’s Italian Imports and Discount Liquor Superstore.

Korea, where the women are healthy and well-oiled.

Korea, where the women are healthy and well-oiled.

I have nothing useful to say about this game; it’s a JRPG and I don’t “get” JRPGs that aren’t Persona 3 FES, I just want to keep typing until I have enough text to justify showing more artwork of the chick with the huge boobs without looking like an enormouch letch.

Oh, who am I fooling:

I dont even care that its basically the same englarged and reversed.  Just look at them!

I don't even care that it's basically the same englarged and reversed. Just look at them!

Dave Halverson dedicated something like 80% of this month’s Play magazine’s total mass to promoting Magna Carta 2– which, y’know, isn’t exactly a good indication of a game’s overall quality.

Buck Fever (are you serious?  Wii.  Probably.)
From an alternate-timeline Earth where Defender had you shooting Elk

From an alternate-timeline Earth where Defender had you shooting Elk

Sometimes I put things up here instead of in the shovelware section where they because the box amuses me.  Buck Fever!  That’s great!Seriously though.  If anyone who worked on this game is listening:

Only on the best selling console hardware in the world!

Only on the best selling console hardware in the world!

You guys developed this on a Gameboy Advance, didn’t you?  Just admit it.  It’s okay, you still developed a hunting game with a 4 player party mode and that’s awesome.

*Scene it?  Twilight (Wii)

This is not my beautiful Castlevania

This is not my beautiful Castlevania!

I’d say this is the most embarassing thing to happen to games this week but this

Yup, still there.

Yup, still there.

Still happened.  Godammit, Konami.

*Laevatein Tactics (DS)

Note:  Game inside not nearly as badass as box.

Note: Game inside not nearly as badass as box.

If you’ve already played through all five hundred DS Strat-JRPGs, well here’s another one.


Where the Wild things are
Cake Mania 3
Ju-On: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator
Sudoku Bal:  Detective
petz Pony Beauty pagent
Agatha Christie: ABC Murders

Cars Race-O-Rama

NEXT WEEK~!  BUY SPACE INVADERS EXTREME 2, YOU ASSHOLES!  Also something about Borderlands.  And I get to talk about wrestling.  But mainly SPACE INVADERS EXTREME 2, MOTHERFUCKERS!

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